The Cholesterol and Cardiovascular Disease Link: Not as Black and White as We Think
When considering Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death worldwide, it is understandable that doctors and researchers would want to focus on reducing the risk factors associated with it - cholesterol commonly being believed to be the most significant one.
The road to Cardiovascular Disease starts with fatty deposits, or plaques, building up in our arteries, which is called atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is most commonly caused by damage to the arterial walls, and the plaques that build up as a result of that damage are made up of fibrin, triglycerides, phospholipids, and cholesterol, constricting blood flow which is of course detrimental to our health.
However, if the damaged arteries are the main reason for atherosclerosis, then why is focusing on cholesterol, and cholesterol-reducing medication, the most common “preventative” treatment?
Cholesterol is naturally produced in our bodies and it is used to make hormones, vitamin D, bile, and is part of the membranes of all of our cells. It is transported from our livers on carrier-proteins to our tissues. LDL, commonly believed to be the carrier of “bad” cholesterol, carries it from the liver to our tissues (where it is meant to repair damage), whereas HDL, the carrier of “good” cholesterol, carries it from our tissues to our liver for processing.
The standard medical treatment for high LDL levels is prescribing LDL-lowering drugs, such as statins. However, as numerous studies have shown, LDL-lowering drugs are not an effective treatment when looking at preventative treatment in people without genetic predispositions to CVD. Consider the research done by Cardiologist Eric Toppler in his book “The Creative Destruction of Medicine”, which points out that only one or two out of 100 patients “without prior heart disease but at risk for developing such a condition will actually benefit” from a statin. Considering statins are the most common prescription for preventing Cardiovascular Disease, Toppler rightly asks, “how about the 98 out of 100 patients who don’t benefit?”
While statins are lowering LDL-levels, there are no long-term studies proving that death rates because of CVD are, as a result, also being reduced. As most of the cholesterol-lowering drugs are also toxic to the liver and have a myriad of side-effects, shouldn’t there be alternatives when it comes to preventing CVD?
In David Rowland’s book, The Nutritional Bypass, he states that one of the ways we can lower CVD risks holistically is through the detoxification of our arterial walls and prevention of the oxidation of our tissues. Anti-oxidants can prevent free radicals (toxins) from oxidating our tissues and damaging our arterial walls, which is of course a main cause of atherosclerosis. If damage to our arteries is one of the main reasons the plaques that include cholesterol are constricting our blood flow, doesn't it make more sense to deal with the root cause of the damage rather than the symptom of high levels of cholesterol? Our livers are sending cholesterol to our tissues to repair the initial damage, and the reasons for the initial damage seem to be a much more important question to be answered that is in line with genuine preventative treatment. If a person increases their intake of anti-oxidants, such as vitamin C, vitamin E, Selenium, and so on, damage to the arterial walls will be limited at minimum and our body wouldn't need to repair the damage caused by toxins with cholesterol, which leads to atherosclerosis in the first place.
We can also easily limit our exposure to free radical damage by refraining from smoking, eliminating saturated and trans-fats from their diets and can naturally lower LDL levels by increasing our fiber intake as fiber also eliminates bile which contains cholesterol that is not necessary to our bodies.
As these treatments address the root causes behind Cardiovascular Disease and do not require medications that are toxic to our bodies, shouldn't they be prioritized as effective preventative treatment for such a life-threatening disease?
Rowland, David W.,The Nutritional Bypass: Reverse Atherosclerosis Without Surgery. 1995
Murray Michael and Pizzorno, Joseph, Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, 1998
Wiley-Blackwell, Saturday Evening Post