Junkfood Science: The Great Cholesterol Con

January 24, 2007

The Great Cholesterol Con

The Daily Mail reports that the long-anticipated release of The Great Cholesterol Con by Malcolm Kendrick, Medical Director of Adelphi Lifelong Learning, Cheshire, UK, and long-time cholesterol researcher, is January 29. Dr. Kendrick writes:

Have we been conned about cholesterol?

...So how can I say saturated fat doesn't matter when everyone knows it is a killer? Could all those millions who have been putting skinless chicken and one per cent fat yoghurts into their trolleys really have been wasting their time? The experts are so busy urging you to consume less fat and more statins that you are never warned about the contradictions and lack of evidence behind the cholesterol con. In fact, what many major studies show is that as far as protecting your heart goes, cutting back on saturated fats makes no difference and, in fact, is more likely to do harm.

So how did fat and cholesterol get such a bad name? It all began about 100 years ago…Major trials since have been no more successful. One involved nearly 30,000 middle-aged men and women in Sweden, followed for six years. The conclusion? "Saturated fat showed no relationship with cardiovascular disease in men. Among the women, cardiovascular mortality showed a downward trend with increasing saturated fat intake." (In other words, the more saturated fat, the less chance of dying from heart disease).

It's a bit of a paradox, isn?t it? That's one of the features of the dietary hypothesis - it involves a lot of paradoxes. The most famous is the French Paradox. They eat more saturated fat than we do in Britain; they smoke more, take less exercise, have the same cholesterol/LDL levels, they also have the same average blood pressure and the same rate of obesity.

And you know what? They have one quarter the rate of heart disease we do. The official explanation is that the French are protected from heart disease by drinking red wine, eating lightly cooked vegetables and eating garlic. But there is no evidence that any of these three factors are actually protective. None. By evidence, I mean a randomised, controlled clinical study…

The Framingham study in the US found that people whose cholesterol levels fell were at a 14 per cent increased risk of death from heart disease for every 1mg/dl. Set up in 1948, the study screened the whole population of Framingham near Boston for factors that might be involved in heart disease and then followed them to see what happened to them. It is still going today, making it the longest running and most often quoted study in heart-disease research. A massive long-term study that looked specifically at cholesterol levels and mortality in older people in Honolulu, published in The Lancet, found that having low cholesterol concentration for a long time increases the risk of death.

Low cholesterol levels greatly increase your risk of dying younger. So the cholesterol hypothesis looks something like this: There is no evidence that saturated fat is bad - and there are lots of 'paradoxes' where countries with a high cholesterol intake don't have a higher death rate from heart disease....

Bookmark and Share