No reason to celebrate cheaper drugs

The Sunday Age reported that sixty commonly prescribed drugs will now be cheaper for patients and that those who take simvastatin to help lower cholesterol will save almost $15 on the drug.

It was just one month ago that The Age reported that the use of cholesterol – lowering drugs is increasing the risk of diabetes and memory impairment.

Research suggests that cholesterol-lowering drugs or statins only help a small group of young men-those who have had a previous heart attack and yet around two million Australians take these medications believing they’ll lower their heart attack risk.

It is true that statins inhibit the production of cholesterol but the reality is that cholesterol is vital for the production of hormones, cellular repair and overall good health including that of the brain. The idea that high cholesterol causes heart disease began with the landmark Framingham Heart Study, which followed healthy people in the early 1950s to see who had a heart attack and what distinguished them from those who did not. High cholesterol was one risk factor–but it was only one of more than 240 others. Public health officials and cardiologists confused a statistical association with causation resulting in a new disease called hypercholesterolemiathe health issue of the 21st century.

As the author of this blog has stated previously, cholesterol-lowering  drugs such as simvastatin are not necessary and are probably causing harm to many of those taking them. It is true that these drugs called statins inhibit the production of cholesterol but the reality is that every cell membrane contains cholesterol, vital for the production of hormones, cellular repair and overall good health including that of the brain.

Medication with statins such as simvastatin and lipitor rob our bodies of cholesterol. Statin drugs are very powerful drugs and recent trials suggest that they may be causing cognitive impairment and type 2 diabetes. But then aren’t they needed to prevent heart-disease death? Studies show that even though they may reduce the chance of death in people who have already had a heart attack, there’s also evidence to suggest that this is because statins reduce clotting- but then so does the cheaper drug aspirin.

One of the best books on this subject is Big Fat Lies: How the diet industry is making you sick, fat & poor, by David Gillespie. In this informative and entertaining book, Gillespie explains the common lies : those about how much to eat, how to lose weight, and that saturated fats and high cholesterol lead to heart disease. And in spite of lowering our use of saturated fat and increasing our consumption of polyunsaturated oils, we are facing epidemics of obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, dementia and cancer.

‘Contrary to popular belief there’s only one kind of cholesterol. There’s no good, bad ( or even ugly ) cholesterol,’ claims Gillespie. ‘It forms the structure that holds together and waterproofs our fat-walled cell membranes,’ he explains. Our bodies produce cholesterol as we need it and when we eat more cholesterol the body then produces less. Cholesterol is a precursor to many of our hormones and if we don’t have enough cholesterol then we can’t produce testosterone or oestrogen necessary for sexual desire and fertility. Another vital role of cholesterol is in the synthesis of vitamin D in the body. In the diet, vitamin D is found in foods that have high levels of cholesterol, such as cod liver oil and eggs. Vitamin D in turn helps regulate levels of calcium, preventing osteoporosis.

Over the past few decades we have been indoctrinated with the message that we must lower our cholesterol levels in order to protect ourselves from heart disease. We have reduced our intake of cholesterol – abundant foods such as eggs, butter and full cream milk and replaced them with low-fat dairy products and polyunsaturated seed oils. In the event that dietary changes did not work statin drugs have been prescribed.

Gillespie claims the fact that  statins are of benefit to only one small group of people – young men who have previously had a heart attack has not stopped the manufacturers of statins marketing the drugs for widespread preventative use and in the process ‘creating a multibillion dollar industry’.

No, there’s no reason to celebrate just yet!

Categories: books, Media and health, news, politics

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