This is the title of a book just published, which describes and explains the science that justifies the conclusion (1). Equally important, it tells the story of why and how health professionals have been actively promoting a false premise that has caused ill-health and suffering on a unprecedented scale. The book consists of a series of chapters by members of The International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics (THINCS) and is dedicated to its founder, Dr. Uffe Ravnskov. It is published by Columbus, which is owned and run by Zoë and Andy Harcombe. The contents provide valuable insight into the relevant issues and are a fascinating read. I can recommend it without reservation. The information is so critically important that I plan to do several blogs on different aspects. In this first one, I will highlight the difficulties experienced by Dr. Ravnskov in his efforts to expose the flaws in the “lipid hypothesis” and why he decided to establish THINCS.
In 1992 he had a paper published in the BMJ, in which he evaluated the trials that had attempted to study the relationship between dietary fat, cholesterol in the blood (TC) and coronary heart disease (CHD) (1). He selected 24 different investigations. Fourteen of these were considered supportive of the lipid hypothesis by the authors, although this was not justified by conventional statistical analysis. The other 10 were not supportive. When he combined the results from all the trials, there was no effect on all-cause mortality (ACM). There was a reduction of 0.3% in non-fatal CHD, although there was some doubt about the reliability of this result and in any case it as not related to the degree of cholesterol-lowering. However what was especially interesting was his finding that in subsequent citations of the papers in major journals, the supportive ones were cited 61 times per annum, whereas those which were not supportive were mentioned only eight times. At about the same time a book he had published generated so much opposition in Finland that a copy was burned on a television programme. From then on, he encountered great difficulties in getting articles accepted by journals and books published. In Holland, the leading cholesterol advocates refused to debate with him on television.
In fact, his studies have revealed that many authors who favour the cholesterol hypothesis deliberately mislead their readers. Here is one of his conclusions:
“Only two of twelve groups of controversial papers, were quoted correctly, and only in one of the reviews. About half of the papers were ignored. The rest were quoted irrelevantly; or insignificant findings in favour of the hypothesis were inflated; or unsupportive results were quoted as if they were supportive. Only one of six randomised cholesterol-lowering trials with a negative outcome were cited and only in one of the reviews. In contrast, each review cited two, four, and six non-randomised with a positive outcome, respectively.”
He went on to set up THINCS. This is an electronic network of academic and health professionals that have serious doubts about the validity of the cholesterol theory and wish to explore ideas about the critical factors, which contribute to the development of heart disease.
In 2007 he prepared a paper, which described his ideas on the cause of heart disease but it was rejected by nine different journals. The relationship between TC and the incidence of cancer is especially interesting. Dr. Ravnskov explains that there is massive evidence to show that low TCs are associated with raised rates of cancer.
On the other hand, a high TC is protective. This may well explain why there is some suggestion that statins may reduce the incidence of cancer because the beneficial effect may be due to the high TC per se rather than to effect of the statin. This conclusion is all the more likely since many statin users stop their treatment.
In 2009, Dr.Ravnskov published “Fat and Cholesterol are Good for You” (3). In the foreward, he states that he could not find any evidence that high cholesterol and saturated fat are harmful to human health. On the other hand, any critical comments were met with little interest from editors of journals. The research on the subject was characterised by inaccuracies, misinterpretations, exaggerations and manipulations of data. Since he first became interested in the issues, an increasing number of studies have found that high cholesterol is beneficial, probably because it protects against cancer and infectious diseases. The anti-infectious effect of cholesterol is especially relevant because there is a strong link between infections and cardiovascular disease. He poses the question:
“How can high cholesterol be bad and at the same time protect us against factors that are harmful to our vessels?”
The book itself is an excellent compendium of some of the evidence which undermines the lipid hypothesis. Anyone who reads it with an open mind cannot fail to be convinced that a high TC should not be a matter of concern. The problem is not the science but the blatant way in which it has been manipulated and misrepresented. There is now absolutely no doubt that this is a scandal of enormous proportions. As a consequence, people have been advised to alter their diet by reducing their intake of total fat and saturated fat (SFA) and to increase the consumption of polyunsaturated fat (PUFA) and carbohydrates. This has contributed in no small measure to the increase in obesity and type 2 diabetes (T2D) all over the world so that people have suffered ill-health and premature death. This is being driven by powerful vested interests coupled with arrogance and incompetence on the part of the so-called “scientists” that have been allowed to determine policy by inept politicians.
This new book by various members of THINCS is dedicated to Uffe Ravnskov and must be essential reading for anyone who wishes to understand why the whole cholesterol business is in such a wholesale mess (1). Above all, do not agree to go on statins before you have studied it in detail.
- U Ravnskov (2009) “Fat and Cholesterol are Good for You: What Really Causes Heart Disease” GB Publishing Sweden