12 Responses to “Cholesterol & heart disease – there is a relationship, but it’s not what you think”


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  1. Tricia Tarrant

    With one more Cholesterol test after a couple of 7.7 results my doctor informs me the next course of action is statins. However, he hasn’t taken into consideration that even though at 56 I am not overweight, exercise regularly, have a healthy diet and am a non smoker. After reading this I certainly won’t be going down the ‘statin’ path. Thank you for this enlightenment I now feel more informed and certainly more in control of my choices.

  2. Lee

    Here in the U.S. I have been in a years-long debate with my own doctor who is “concerned” about my high cholesterol. I purchased a copy of Good Calories Bad Calories and gave it to him requesting he please read it and then we’d have a more meaningful conversation. However he did explain to me very openly that the insurance companies here have definite quotas they strongly encourage their affiliated doctors to meet regarding percentage of patients on statins. He says they say it is because cholesterol is such a danger to the entire population that the majority of people probably are at risk. However he also conceded he could find nothing wrong with me other than that pesky cholesterol number. (my words) I explained in some detail how I do not eat processed foods, put great effort into getting fresh dairy and eggs from local farms, avoid sugar, etc. and he looked at me, mouth agape, and told me that if all his patients did what I did he would be out of a job.

  3. Justine Roberts

    Just one question – why no facebook etc ‘share’ button to help get the message out there!! :-)

  4. Colin

    Just wondering if you ever got an answer to the “risk factor for people with FH” question? I came across this article whilst researching the issue of FH. I was diagnosed with FH at the age of 18 and have spent many, many years on various statins which have all causes mild to severe side effects (including fatigue, muscle pain & depression). I have always felt uncomfortable taking these statins but am constantly being told that at my age (41) I am now in the ‘very high risk’ category for heart attack or stroke because I have a TC reading of 8.8 with LDL of 6.95! The stress of it all is likely to kill me first according to Dr Kendrick’s book which I am currently reading!

    • Zoe

      Hi Colin – you’re reading the right stuff anyway! I highly recommend Uffe Ravnskov’s book “Ignore the Awkward”. Since writing this blog above I’ve been thrilled to become a member of the thincs.org group (the international network of cholesterol sceptics) and we have many exchanges on anything from FH to diabetes risk on statins.
      Uffe’s view can be summarised from this book as follows:
      1) “The idea that people with FH die early from a heart attack is wrong.” Large Dutch and British studies confirm that people with FH live, on average, as long as other people. The data showed more deaths from heart disease in FH people and fewer deaths from cancer and other diseases – balancing out. Additionally, the heart data may have been non representative as it looked at families with FH and was therefore over weighting the deaths observed. Sijbrands et al 2001 BMJ found (a Dutch study) that people with FH lived longer than the average Dutchman in people before 1900. The conclusion drawn was that cholesterol is protective as most deaths at that time were of virus and bacteria.
      2) FH is usually accompanied by unusually high cholesterol readings (in double figs – not 8.8) and yet incidence of myocardial infarction is not higher in people with cholesterol much higher than ‘normal’ than those slightly higher than ‘normal’ (not withstanding that we keep making up what ‘normal’ is)
      3) If high cholesterol were the cause of atherosclerosis in people with FH, all their arteries should be impacted – not just those going to the heart and this is not the case.
      For full logical explanations (Uffe’s logic is great) and references – you need the book.

      I have developed a view on FH since this blog. Familial hypercholesterolemia is defined as a genetic condition caused by a gene defect on chromosome 19. The defect makes the body unable to remove LDL from the bloodstream, resulting in consistently high levels of LDL. One in 500 people (a non UK specific estimate) are estimated to have familial hypercholesterolemia. (One in fourteen people in the UK are taking statins). I think that this makes high cholesterol and high LDL recorded in the blood stream a symptom rather than a problem. Surely the problem with FH is that the cells are not getting the LDL ‘delivery’ that is so vital to bodily functioning? LDL remember carries cholesterol and protein and phospholipids and triglycerides – all needed by cells for repair and optimal function. Hence the defect in the LDL receptor means that the cells don’t get what they need – that’s the problem. The fact that the deliveries are backing up in the blood stream is the indication that FH is likely present.

      This would suggest to me that statins are the last thing that someone with FH should be on – you note classic statin side effects of fatigue, muscle pain and depression. More than anyone you need whatever LDL can get through to your cells to get through. Surely the last thing you want to do is to stop your body producing cholesterol to reduce the chance of supplies getting through further?! That’s my latest thought!

      Hope all this helps and good on you taking your health into your own hands! You’re very lucrative to drug co.s! Hopefully Kendrick is making you laugh enough to relieve stress too
      Very best wishes – Zoe
      p.s. this explains HDL too – LDL is effectively the carrier of fresh cholesterol/protein/phospholipids and triglyceride off around the body to do vital work. HDL is effectively the carrier of used cholesterol & lipids – the HDL ‘taxi’ picks up used cholesterol & lipids to take back to the liver for recycling (the body won’t lose any cholesterol if it can help it – the stuff is too valuable ;-)) So LDL not getting through because of the FH defect means HDL is lower because there was less used stuff to pick up! (Some cholesterol must get through to cells or every FH sufferer would be dead).

  5. SR

    No need to harpoon the great physiologist any more than necessary.

    In an “Eating Well” interview with Ancel Keys, I think in 1996 (I have it in storage somewhere), Keys clearly states that the original cholesterol studies were done on rabbits, which were extremely sensitve to dietary cholesterol. He opines in the same article that saturated fat should be eaten in moderation. I think he also mentions the danger of hydrogenated fat/trans-fatty acids, but I am not clear on this.

  6. Kim Holyman

    Zoe, being an absolute technophobe I have only just managed to find where I let this message – and hence found your reply. A heart felt “Thank You”.
    I am a member of your forum and am getting so much support from it.
    Just to say, I am soooooo off the statins and following THD.
    Looking forward to the Manchester meet on 19th February.
    Thanks so much.

    • admin

      Hi Kim – so sorry this took a while to approve – we’ve both been away for a couple of days! Thanks so much for your lovely message. Delighted to hear you’re enjoying the forum and doing so well on The Harcombe Diet. Looking forward to seeing you in Manchester!
      Very best wishes – Zoe x

  7. Angie Lambert

    It’s made me realise that I have got to get back to following your dietary advice, I eat too much of the flour based foods and not enough to the real fats and vegetables, I know that it’s the bad carbs that are piling on my weight, just as it was with my late father, who died 6 years ago from CVD. His weight was most definitely related to his high consumption of bread and cereals, having been bought up to believe that you had to fill up on bread, potatoes and such otherwise you would be hungry!!

    Maybe all this rubbish dietary advise we receive is in order to “cull” the population!!

  8. Kim Holyman

    I feel so stupid, I have been sucked in. I had a routine blood test that showed my cholesterol level as being 7.7. I was prescribed statins, over the phone via the doctors receptionist, no advice except follow a cholesterol lowering diet and come and collect your tablets.”
    I feel stupid because I was following your diet advice but, as usual I find loosing weight so, so hard. Also, I am veggi, eating fish, and do find I eat loads of carbs. So, eventually topped following your advice and started to eat ‘normally’ again. What an idiot I am!
    Getting back to the statins, I had the prescription for 2 months before I actually got the tablets – I really don’t want to take them. Now I have been on them for 3 weeks and get sick to my stomach (not literally) everyone I take. I am sitting in bed reading your words to my husband (who also takes statins + other heart medication following a heart attack, heart bi-pass and aortic valve replacement operation). I have decided here and now I am not going to continue to take these tablets – 7.7 isn’t even that high is it? And, shouldn’t they have done a second blood test to make sure that this was the level – not just take it from 1 test??
    I feel desperate, I don’t want to go back to my doctor, he will only chastise me for not taking his advice. I am 4stones overweight – what a mess!!
    Kim (crazycat)

    • Zoe

      Hi Kim – I’m so sorry to hear all this.

      I would highly recommend getting hold of a copy of Dr Malcolm Kendrick’s The Great Cholesterol Con. Amazon will likely be ‘giving it away’ for about £4. Check p160 to start: The first 5 lines are:
      Statins do not save lives in women
      Statins do not save lives in women
      Statins do not save lives in women
      Is it possible to highlight how important this fact actually is?

      The body makes cholesterol for a reason. One of our club members recently had a raised cholesterol level and posted a comment seeking advice as to why this maybe. The first question we asked was – is your body making extra cholesterol right now for a reason? Are you pregnant? Have you just had surgery or an injury? The reply we got was that the member had cut their finger and what should have been a small injury had led to a swollen arm and axillary lymph node swelling and a serious dose of antibiotics was being started! Cholesterol was just doing its job. How come a diet club would ask that question and our average doctor still seems to think that there is such a thing as good and bad cholesterol!? It really is deeply worrying.

      I personally find it outrageous that you were put on statins – let alone over the phone, let alone on the back of one test, let alone being a woman, let alone no consideration of possible side effects which can include fatigue, muscle ache, memory loss, muscle wasting, forgetfulness and generally feeling like you’ve lost your mind. You are right – 7.7 is not even that high – we wouldn’t have batted an eyelid at this a few years ago. The cholesterol test is notoriously unreliable – if you’re running late for the appointment it can affect the result; if you didn’t fast for at least 12 hours beforehand it will affect the result. The cholesterol test can only measure total cholesterol and HDL and the equation is:

      Total cholesterol = LDL + HDL + triglycerides/5. LDL and triglycerides are ‘guessed’ with the help of this Freidewald equation.
      No wonder there is an inverse realtionship between LDL and HDL – all other things being equal, if one goes up the other goes down! When idiots talk about X raises good cholesterol (which is what they think HDL is) and lowers bad cholesterol (which is what they think LDL is) – if you assume one goes up, the other must go down (other things being equal).

      I do think they should have done many tests – absolutely not just one and my personal view is that women (and almost all men) should not be taking statins – I sincerely hope you have not had bad side effects. I would show the doctor the graphs in this blog and ask him why he is trying to lower your life expectancy (sorry – cholesterol).

      The best way for all your body readings to be ‘normal’ is to eat what nature intended us to eat. You may be aware that I started eating meat after 20 years during the research for my book. I had started eating fish again a few years before that having been a long term veggie. Meat would be a great addition to your diet but I can understand animal welfare concerns about this (if anyone is avoiding real meat ‘for health reasons’ – stop now! It’s the healthiest food group on the planet). Your diet should be based on (meat), fish, eggs, vegetables (spuds don’t count), salads, dairy products and minimal fruit and whole grains if you want to lose weight. Avoiding all processed food (including processed meat) and minimising carb intake generally will help with weight loss, blood glucose levels, blood pressure and cholesterol levels (real fat has naff all to do with cholesterol levels but the mechanism is clearly there for carbs to impact VLDL).

      Very best wishes – Zoe

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