The complete title of this book had me laughing out loud when I first heard it – classic Jimmy Moore wit! Cholesterol Clarity: What the HDL is Wrong with My Numbers? What a great title! It expresses so well the frustration we’ve all felt at some time while trying to wade through the truth and the hype, the mixed messages from media and doctors, trying to get to the answers we need and want.
Going into this book I was already pretty well informed. I’ve attended two Wise Tradition conferences of the Weston A Price Foundation and sat through two lectures by Chris Masterjohn, a researcher on cholesterol and health. I’ve listened to podcasts by Dr. Dwight Lundell, listened to lectures from Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride, and done some of my own research into the biochemical functions of cholesterol in the body. Even with all that I was still blown away by the wealth of information contained in this smallish book.
In case you don’t know Jimmy Moore, he’s the voice behind the Livin La Vida Low Carb show – hundreds and hundreds of health & wellness podcast interviews with some of the biggest names in science, nutrition and medicine not just in the U.S. but from around the world. Jimmy made a big splash in 2004 when he lost 180 lbs, consequently getting off several prescription medications, through a ketogenic diet. Jimmy’s skill as an interviewer as well as the thousands of contacts he has made over the years make him the perfect author for this book. He isn’t a medical doctor, but he knows an awful lot of them. He gathered 30 real experts on diet and cholesterol and records their thoughts in this book tying it all together with his own likable style.
So what are some of the things I learned while reading Cholesterol Clarity? I have 10 pages of notes, I can’t begin to list it all – but I will give you some of my highlights beginning with this gem: A 2009 study published in the American Heart Journal found that 3 out of 4 heart attack patients had cholesterol levels considered “normal” or lower. Some were even on statins. Yep, 75% of people with heart attacks don’t have high cholesterol. Why isn’t everyone curious about this? It seems pretty obvious that high cholesterol isn’t causing heart attacks. Here’s another one – a 10 year study in Norway showed that women with high cholesterol had a 30% less chance of heart attack, heart disease or stroke. And a 2010 study showed statins gave greater risk of death by any means to women.
So if statins don’t keep you from having heart disease what do they do? While they are blocking the formation of cholesterol in our bodies they are also blocking a lot of other important substances too, like CoQ10 and dolichols. But blocking cholesterol itself is cause enough for concern. “Cholesterol is vital for both the formation and function of each memory synapse in our brains” says NASA astronaut and physician Dr. Duane Graveline. Is it any wonder one of the side effects of statins includes memory loss? CoQ10 and dolichols are also crucial – the body builds mitochondria with them – the bits that supply our cells with energy. So when you shut off these substances you get damage like muscle damage & weakness, and nervous system damage, organ damage (liver, pancreas, etc.), hepatitis and even ALS. The list of side effects for statins is enormous. In addition to the ones mentioned above you have mood changes, trouble breathing, weight gain, skin irritations, impotence, blood pressure and heart malfunction!
So statins aren’t curing anything and they may be adding to an already burdened healthcare system by creating even more problems for the people who take them. So what is really the cause of heart disease? It is inflammation. And we can control inflammation through diet and lifestyle changes (hint: they aren’t what we’ve been told by those ‘food pyramid’ agencies either) so pharmaceutical intervention is usually not necessary. Hmmm, maybe that’s why this information keeps getting covered up… The oxidation of our cholesterol is causing inflammation. The solution isn’t to get rid of cholesterol, it’s to get rid of inflammation. Dr. Fred Kummerow, who will be 100 years old this October 2014, and has been researching heart disease for over 50 years, gets right to the point when he says, “The oils used in cooking by most families, such as vegetable oils, are loaded with omega-6 fatty acids, and these have led to more heart disease. These fats are directly impacting your cholesterol by oxidizing it, which is leading to cardiovascular damage. If you heat up and eat a fat like soybean or canola oil, it eventually shows up in the arteries of people who have had bypass surgery. If people would just stop eating that kinds of fat, they would not get heart disease.” I’m thinking Dr. Kummerow is living proof that he knows what he’s talking about, he is still active in research and the scientific community as an almost-centenarian. He goes on to say, “Dietary cholesterol is not the problem in heart disease. We’ve shown that in a study I published in the January 1979 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.” Dr. Duane Graveline agrees “Lowering inflammation is key in the prevention of heart disease.” And when people ask Dr. Donald Miller “If cholesterol doesn’t cause heart disease, what does?” he tells them that it is vitamin deficiencies, eating a low-fat diet, eating polyunsaturated fats, and stress. Yep, low-fat diets and all of those supposedly “heart healthy” polyunsaturated fats are really part of the problem.
Dr. Donald Miller believes that the pharmaceutical industry, government agencies like the FDA and NIH, and the major medical associations have misled doctors. These organizations continues to claim that coronary disease is caused by high cholesterol because of eating saturated fat. They keep preaching heart disease prevention through lowering cholesterol. They simply ignore any contradictory evidence. Many people have been writing books and speaking out against this false notion about cholesterol for years now but not getting a lot of attention.
There’s a practical side to this book as well. In Chapter 19 we get honest instruction on what all the numbers mean on a typical cholesterol panel as well as guidelines for interpreting this data according to this new paradigm, and also in Chapter 20 we get suggestions for alternative tests to run instead of a cholesterol panel. This books says it’s important to know that the current level of 200 (which may soon be dropping even further to 190) is not based in scientific fact. It’s an arbitrary level which conveniently allows for more people to be given prescriptions for cholesterol lowering medication. It isn’t a reliable marker for determining your risk of heart disease. Looking at traditional cultures with a long history free from heart disease we see different numbers entirely. For women a total cholesterol of 250 and for men 220 is perfectly normal. Alternative tests to consider include finding your Apolipoprotein B (ApoB) levels, LDL-P or Small LDL-P. Another test for High-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) measures inflammation and can determine the overall health of your arteries.
I definitely recommend getting Cholesterol Clarity and reading through it, sharing it with your doctor and opening up the discussion on what is really going on with your test numbers and getting some clarity in your own situation!
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