Friday, March 28, 2014


Some time ago American researchers conducted a huge study using a drug called Cholestyramine to lower the level of blood cholesterol. Patients who took this drug suffered 30 per cent fewer heart attacks and coronary deaths. A subsequent study in Finland using another drug gave similar results. But that's where the good news ended.
Both studies revealed that these drugs did not decrease the over-all mortality rate over the duration of the study. Rather, the same number of people continued to die, but the cause was an increase in accidental deaths. Some patients developed gastrointestinal cancers, liver problems and stones in the gallbladder.
It appeared that patients were exchanging one devil for another.

And that J.B. Moliere, the French playright and actor, was right when he remarked in 1673:

 "Nearly all men die of their medicines, not of their diseases."

Now, more startling news from Finland:

Researchers report that a major study to prove the advantages of dietary changes along with cholesterol-lowering drugs has backfired!

The studies were carried out at the University of Helsinki and the Institute of Occupational Health. Researchers studied two groups of about 600 middle-aged businessmen all of whom shared cardiovascular risk factors. One group was given medication to lower cholesterol level and blood pressure along with intensive counselling. The other group was allowed to go merrily on its way without treatment. The result was an embarrassment! 

The heavily treated group suffered more than twice the number of cardiac deaths than those receiving no treatment!

But even more worrying and puzzling was the fact that once again a relationship was discovered between cholesterol-lowering drugs and violent death. 13 of the treated group suffered death either by accident or suicide. Only one in the untreated group died violently.

Professor Michael Oliver, an internationally renowned British cardiologist, points to another disquieting fact. The treated group died faster during the trial as well as afterwards.

Professor Desmond Julian, Director of the British Heart Foundation, agrees that no one disputes the relationship between blood cholesterol and heart disease. But he stresses that the advice to decrease dietary intake of cholesterol is not based on definite research. And that "even if all the trials are pooled, there is no evidence that diet or drugs lower mortality." This is not the kind of report we hear on this side of the Atlantic.

Dr.Petr Skrabanek of Trinity College, Dublin, a critic of the cholesterol-heart disease link, had this to say about the finding. "Sooner or later, the cholesterol theory is going to collapse completely."

Will research that backfired stop the current epidemic of "cholesterolphobia"? I doubt it. It's simply too hard to erase previous news making headlines that linked cholesterol with heart disease. Nor is it easy to counteract the advertising budgets of multibillion dollar conglomerates. They fuel the fire that claims that farmers, hens and cows are responsible for this epidemic of coronary disease. And that the only solution is to switch to margarine and polyunsaturated fats.

Again few dispute the relationship between blood cholesterol and heart disease. But one inescapable fact cannot be ignored. That the lowering of blood cholesterol fails to extend life expectancy.
An old Vermont saying goes "If it ain't broke don't fix it." It is sound advice when dealing with medical problems. Today's faddish trends can be hazardous for patients.

Dr. Phil Gold, Professor of Medicine at McGill University, summarized this tendency when talking about the potential dangers of cholesterol-lowering drugs. He remarked, "Physicians have started to say, 'If it ain't broke, we ought to break it and see if we can fix it better!'".

The appalling point is that millions of unsuspecting people have been hoodwinked into believing that blood cholesterol is the be-all-and-end-all for avoiding heart disease. As if solving medical problems was only that simple!