Cholesterol questions

Was reading regarding our understanding of cholesterol, and it makes some claims which I find surprising. Claims like:


I’d normally write it off as completely crackpot nonsense, but they seem to have a fairly thorough set of studies and lots of research on the site that make me think twice about it.

A term I heard the other day referring to this line of thought is “the cholesterol myth” – anyone have more info on this? Is this just a well research crackpot site? Or have we simply been lied to all along?

Can you be more specific as to what you find hard to believe in the linked article?

Well, it has some statements that contradict much of what we’ve been taught over the years here in the US. Like eating more red meat and beef fat will make Americans slimmer and lower their risk of heart disease. That lowering cholesterol isn’t necessarily a good thing, and cholesterol doesn’t cause heart disease. Those sort of statements.

I don’t actually remember ever being told that lowering dietary intake of cholesterol was good or bad, but that might just be me. I remember being told that lowering dietary intake of saturated fats in general is good. The only bad thing I’ve ever heard about red meat is increased risk for colorectal cancers from burned, charred or overcooked red meats. I guess you could take the “lower saturated fat” and infer from it that chicken breast is healthier than a well-marbled steak, but not that chicken is better than beef. I can’t imagine a doctor recommending eating 99% lean chicken over 99% lean beef because the former is somehow healthier. :dubious:

Here’s a link from the American Heart Association in regard to common myths about cholesterol:

Our cholesterol levels are measures of the cholesterol that’s in our blood. No one knows why some people have more cholesterol in their blood than others. Also, no one knows the mechanism whereby that cholesterol is deposited in the veins and arteries of some people and not others. I remember reading a study years ago where people in a coronary care ward had their cholesterol levels taken, as well as people who were not being treated for anything much and had no reason to believe they had high cholesterol levels. Just as many of the second group had “high” cholesterol levels as members of the first group.

I think at best cholesterol levels are an indicator of a possible problem, but a patient’s cholesterol level is a number doctors can point to and then prescribe drugs for, so it’s become a big thing. According to the AHA the liver and other cells in our bodies make 75% of blood cholesterol. A big deal is often made of the level of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol without figuring the ratio of LDL to HDL (“good”) cholesterol, which many say is the important number.

If a person chooses to attempt to lower his cholesterol, then diet is just one factor. Exercise and other aspects of a healthy lifestyle seem to be just as important. Some sources I’ve read advocate testing for liver function when a high cholesterol reading is found. Others suggest that “high” cholesterol might be completely unimportant. Unfortunately the drug companies and the food manufacturers have jumped on cholesterol as a marketing tool, and doctors are not (IMO and in general) being very diligent about providing a balanced picture of the issue to their patients.

Seems it’s another hype issue we know so little about. Sigh.

Thanks for the links. I’m still not sure what the answer is, but apparently neither is anybody else. =)

My brother is in the pharm industry. He called me a few years ago kind of laughing and bitching simultaneously. That day pharm pressure got the medical boards to agree to a level of cholesterol in the blood that was almost unattainable without medicine. The dropping was only significant because it sold cholesterol medicines,the big moneymakers. It is likely that no one really knows what a proper level should be. Perhaps there are benefits in lowering it but who knows the ramifications of too low a level, isf such a thing is possible.

I don’t think it’s just cholesterol numbers, either. In the years since my employer has instituted health screenings, the “ideal” BP was systolic “less than 140.” Now it’s “less than 120.” “Ideal” fasting blood sugar was originally “less than 115.” On our last one, it was “less than 100.”

Aha! I had wondered about the change in ranges, too.

Once upon a time, my rock-solid every-time-I-measured-no-matter-what-the-circumstance BP of 120/80 was smack dab in the middle of “normal”.

Now that’s the extreme high end of “normal”. Fortunately, my BP has dropped also. g

I remember all the hooraw about “red meat = cholesterol = BAD DEADLY FOOD”. It was about the same time that pork became “the other white meat”, to combat it’s rep for cholesterol.

Although I’m perfectly willing to believe that part of it is media hype fueled by drug company pressure, I think part of it is just changing as we learn more about bodily processes.

Because I also remember when it changed from just being “cholesterol” to HDL/LDL and/or Good Cholesterol/Bad Cholesterol.

My dad was on a low-cholesterol diet back in the 60s and 70s, so I grew up eating margarine because butter had dairy fat = cholesterol. Now they know that hydrogenated fats are at least as bad for you, so butter may well be healthier than margarine. A similar discovery about beef wouldn’t surprise me.

ETA: please insert obligatory Sleeper reference here. Thank you.