Could it be that mainstream medicine is finally catching up with alternative medicine and good old-fashioned conventional wisdom? Could cholesterol be essential and actually good for you?
It all started with Nikolai Anitschkow who in a study from 1913 showed, that feeding cholesterol to rabbits could induce symptoms similar to atherosclerosis. Based on this observation Duff and McMillian formulated the lipid hypothesis in its modern form in a review which appeared in the American Journal of Medicine in 1951. Ancel Keys was probably the most well-known early proponent of the lipid hypothesis, which states that saturated fats and cholesterol in the blood are the cause of heart disease.
Since then cardiovascular disease has been the focus of research seeking to prove or disprove whether saturated fats and cholesterol in the blood are a major factor. Many have criticized Keys for having selection bias when supporting his conclusions. Some critics have shown that the data Keys used to back up his findings showed no correlation to his conclusions. To go into detail of all the flaws of the hypothesis would be too complex and time consuming for this article. Needless to say Ancel Keys stated in a paper published as far back as 1956: “In the adult man the serum cholesterol level is essentially independent of the cholesterol intake over the whole range of human diets.”. His first paper on the topic was published in 1953, and a book he published in 1959 “Eat Well and Stay Well”, made sure the hypothesis gained popular awareness.
More recently in 1997, a paper also published by Ancel Keys stated: “There’s no connection whatsoever between cholesterol in food and cholesterol in blood. And we’ve known that all along. Cholesterol in the diet doesn’t matter at all unless you happen to be a chicken or a rabbit.“ Well those statements are no surprise as the liver produces most of the cholesterol and only 10 percent comes from diet. If too much cholesterol is consumed, the liver simply decreases the output of cholesterol.
Why the hysteria about cholesterol you ask? Why the emphasis on reducing cholesterol in the diet? It’s simple. Cholesterol became an easy target and reducing serum cholesterol is just too profitable a business to miss. Interested parties kept spreading the hypothesis until it became known as a fact that cholesterol is bad for you, never however proving the hypothesis in a clinical study. That approach was so financially rewarding, that in 1995 alone the pharmaceutical giant Merck earned in excess of 1 billion dollars on two different statins (cholesterol lowering drugs).
Here are the facts: cholesterol is an important and essential substance that we need for health at a cellular level. In the skin it helps prevent water evaporation and makes skin waterproof. Vitamin D is synthesized from cholesterol together with UVB radiation of the sun. This brings me to another hysteria, that of sun exposure and UV radiation. Did you know that many drugs cause skin photosensitivity? The combination of a drug and sun exposure can lead to skin burns, skin discoloration, and even skin cancer? However, only the sun is implicated negatively, rarely a drug ….. you do the math. Please remember that living a healthy lifestyle seldom leads to the use of prescription drugs.
There is more about cholesterol. Bile, a substance necessary for fat digestion, which is made by the liver, is mainly made of cholesterol. Hormones, such as estrogen, progesterone or testosterone are made from cholesterol, as well. And that brings me to ANDROPAUSE, a relatively new term for the male equivalent of menopause. A state that has seen a sharp incline in middle aged men, in recent times. The treatment for andropause consists of testosterone replacement therapy. Can you see the correlation yet? Well …. let me spell it out for you – the marvelous invention of modern medicine first treats “high” cholesterol with cholesterol-lowering medications and then when a sufficiently reduced cholesterol affect the production of testosterone, a new treatment is available for the emerging andropause. Let me know if it makes any sense to you: first, you induce andropause by lowering testosterone production through lowering cholesterol, and then you treat it with adding exogenous testosterone. Who is the winner? Do the math again.