I recently received a phone call from my local, friendly pharmacist who, of course, has data on my age and medical history. She politely said they were calling all of their customers about a new, “doctor-recommended” drug prescription for all patients. Apparently, I “fit the profile.” And she recommended I take a statin drug for cholesterol.
In that moment, my friendly pharmacist basically turned into just another paid saleswoman for big pharma.
I figured I’d save the ethics lecture for another time…
But I did give her a short dissertation about all the scientific findings that support the role of dietary cholesterol in good health. Plus, 35 years ago, studies found that dietary cholesterol does not affect blood cholesterol at all.
In other words, the foods you eat don’t affect blood cholesterol. But many so-called experts just won’t let this myth die (as I discussed again earlier this week in my “legends of the Fall” series)…
I also mentioned the overwhelming evidence that shows taking a statin does not improve heart health or longevity, the ultimate test of a drug. But they do come with a laundry list of appalling side effects.
Well, she promptly agreed to take my name of their “call list.”
I didn’t even get a chance to tell her about the new study that investigated the relationship between dietary cholesterol, fats and blood pressure.
This new study involved 125,287 participants from 18 countries in North and South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. Participants answered questions about their food intake through standard food questionnaires.
Upon analysis, researchers looked at dietary intake of saturated fat, monounsaturated fat, and polyunsaturated fat. They also examined the participants’ intake of carbohydrates, protein, and cholesterol. Finally, they analyzed the effects of eating dietary fats or carbs on blood pressure.
Three key findings emerge
In this new study, researchers came away with three key findings:
- Participants who ate more total fat (and individual fats) had higher blood levels of total cholesterol, “bad” LDL cholesterol, and “good” HDL cholesterol.
But they also had lower triglycerides (blood fats), which suggests that those with a higher-fat diet metabolize fats more efficiently.
- Participants who consumed more carbs had lower blood levels of total cholesterol and “bad” LDL cholesterol. But they also had lower “good” HDL cholesterol as well.In addition, they had lower ApoA1, a protein that helps the body metabolize fats, and higher triglyceride lipids (blood fats).
So, compared to the first group, participants with a low-fat/high-carb diet seem to have trouble metabolizing fats.
- Those who had both higher carb and fat intake had higher blood pressure.On the other hand, they linked consumption of more protein with lower blood pressure.
Now, let’s stop right there.
That third finding may seem like a curveball.
Just consider this: People eat foods — not individual nutrients. And healthy, natural foods like dairy, eggs, meat, and seafood don’t just contain only protein — they also contain fat, which seems to lower blood pressure.
By comparison, high-carb foods typically have little or no protein, which seems to increase blood pressure.
Overall, it seems that a diet high in carbs and low in healthy, natural fats will increase not only blood lipids (fats), but blood pressure as well.
The bottom line?
These findings again contradict the myth that you need to reduce total fat and saturated fat to support heart health. The researchers also stated their findings contradict the myth that lowering cholesterol improves heart health.
Furthermore, I will never believe that any one measure (like cholesterol) could possibly represent an accurate evaluation for total health or nutritional status. That’s just not the way the human body works.
But this myth just won’t die — another legend of the Fall.
With all of the legends we’ve covered so far this week, I can’t help but wonder…at what point does hanging onto old, incorrect ideas about medicine cross over from myth to madness?
“Association of dietary nutrients with blood lipids and blood pressure in 18 countries: cross-sectional analysis from the PURE Study,” The Lancet: Diabetes & Endocrinology October 2017; 5(10):774-787