Last October the ABC’s ‘Catalyst’ progam presented a two- part special on cholesterol. It was fantastic to see such a reputable program present the other side of the cholesterol story – that there might just be something wrong with the theory that dietary fat and cholesterol are the villains in heart disease. The program presented by Dr Maryanne Demasi, included many medical experts who were now challenging the predominant medical paradigm such as Dr Jonny Bowden who said:
I think it’s a huge misconception that saturated fat and cholesterol are the demons in the diet, and it is 100% wrong.
Episode one explored the role of saturated fat and cholesterol and their part in heart disease with episode two dealing with the cholesterol drugs – statins which are taken by over 40 million people worldwide to lower their cholesterol. But what the program showed was that there’s now evidence that the majority of people won’t benefit from taking these medications. Yes, they will lower cholesterol levels but this won’t prevent them having a heart attack. The medical experts, mostly from the U.S said the drugs were toxic and passionately declared ‘the causal link between saturated fat, cholesterol and heart disease to be the biggest myth in medical history.’
After the program went to air there were many complaints from organisations such as the Heart Foundation who claimed that patients who had seen the program were stopping their medication. There was a huge outcry also from Dr Norman Swan, the presenter of the ABC’s ‘Health Report’ who said that the program misrepresented the evidence. I find it alarming that Swan has so much influence and am saddened that he does not use his program to search for the truth.
In light of the many complaints an inquiry was made into the program and this week the ABC’s independent watchdog found that the Catalyst episode had breached the ABC’s standards on impartiality and that the show gave too much weight to those arguing against a connection between cholesterol and heart disease and too little to the evidence that there was a link.
Just maybe the link isn’t there but no this was not to be considered.
There is so much wrong with this cholesterol myth but then we are to be kept in the dark and busy swallowing our rations of margarine, vegetable oils and two eggs a week along with our daily dose of statins. That’s if we remember to take our cholesterol-lowering drugs, as loss of memory is one of the many side effects of these common pills.
And what can we say about our public broadcaster. Programs that challenge and make us think are sure to be thin on the ground as the Federal Government has announced the funding of the ABC and SBS will be cut by 1 per cent.
Just don’t expect to see our current affairs programs go out on a limb any time soon.