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  • STATIN NATION: The Great Cholesterol Cover-Up
    STATIN NATION: The Great Cholesterol Cover-Up
    Rethink Productions
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    Entries in Statins (19)


    Vascular Surgeons Write a Damming Report About Statins

    Two top vascular surgeons have published a damming report on statin medications. 

    Dr Sherif Sultan, Consultant Vascular and Endovascular Surgeon, Honorary Senior Lecturer at NUI Galway, Ireland, and Dr Niamh Hynes, Clinical Lecturer In Vascular & Endovascular Surgery at Western Vascular Institute, Ireland have conducted a critical review of the benefits and risks associated with statin medications.


    In summary, their paper highlights the following key points: 

    • Not only are statin medications failing to impact on our most prevalent disease, but they are causing more harm than good.
    • Cholesterol is crucial for energy, immunity, fat metabolism, leptin, thyroid hormone activity, liver related synthesis, protection from stress, adrenal function, sex hormone syntheses and brain function. 
    • Only middle aged men with coronary heart disease benefit from taking statins, but even in these cases statins may only work in the short term and should be stopped before adverse effects can take hold.
    • High cholesterol levels have been found to be protective in elderly and heart failure patients.
    • The statin industry is the utmost medical tragedy of all times. 
    • A government report in Canada found an overestimation of benefit and underestimation of harm where statins are concerned.
    • Statins are associated with triple the risk of coronary artery and aortic calcification.

    This is another scientific paper that should immediately stop the widespread prescription of statins, however, it has gone almost completely unnoticed. In fact, I only became aware of it because it was sent to me from my friend Clare Harris from the Stopped Our Statins support group.


    You can read the full paper here.


    New Study Confirms Statins Do Not Save Lives

    A 'new' study of statin medications has just been published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. I say new, but actually its a new manipulation of old data.  

    The researchers looked at eight previously conducted clinical trials done on statins. The population studied was elderly people without existing cardiovascular disease. After doing their calculations, it was concluded that statins did slightly reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, but the use of statins did not reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular disease. There was also no reduction in the risk of death from all causes.

    The bottom line is that it has once again been established that statins do not extend life expectancy for people without cardiovascular disease.

    This is one of the key points that STATIN NATION exposes.  The video excerpt below provides a summary of this issue:

    A Bit More Detail

    Around 75% of all the people who take a statin, are taking it for  primary prevention. This means they do not have a heart problem but are taking the medication in the hope of preventing a heart problem in the future.  When it comes to primary prevention none of the largest clinical trials have been able to conclusively show any net benefit.

    The AFCAPS (1), ASCOT (2), CARDS (3), PROSPER (4) and WOSCOPS (5) clinical trials all failed to show a statistically significant reduction in all cause mortality (deaths from all causes, not just heart disease related deaths).

    All cause mortality data, of course, is the only true measure one can use to determine if a statin is going to extend life expectancy or not. Whilst some clinical trials of statins have shown a very slight reduction in heart disease, in primary prevention, this has always been countered by deaths from other causes. The net result is that people do not live any longer after taking a statin.

    In 2010, a meta-analysis of 11statin trials was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Professor Kausik Ray and colleagues concluded that statins provided no benefit in terms of deaths from all causes, when used for primary prevention (6). This analysis had the “cleanest” dataset of any analysis completed to date - the researchers were able to exclude patients with existing heart disease (known as secondary prevention) and only include data associated with primary prevention.

    When we look at the use of statins for people who already have a diagnosed heart problem (the 25% of people, in secondary prevention) the picture becomes less clear cut. Some trials have found significant increases in life expectancy for these people, however, the trials have always been too short for us to assess the long-term impact of being on a statin. 

    Even if statins do provide a short-term benefit for those with a heart problem, it is unlikely that this has anything to do with the cholesterol-lowering effect of statins. Quite simply, the amount of benefit does not match up with the degree of cholesterol-lowering. The potential beneficial affects of statins for people with heart disease is now widely recognised to be associated with a reduction in inflammation. And recent evidence suggests that this is mediated through an improvement in iron metabolism (7).

    “Benefits Outweigh Risks” 

    Any decision to take a medication should of course involve a clear understanding of the benefits balanced against the risks. Many authorities have repeatedly stated that the benefits of statins far outweigh the risks. Clearly, this is not correct.

    First of all, as we have seen above, there is no net benefit for the 75% of people who take a statin in primary prevention. So, for these people, the choice should be abundantly clear, since they will only expose themselves to the significant adverse effects associated with statins.  

    Statins have been linked with more than 300 different adverse effects. The most common adverse effects include: depression, suicide, sleep disturbances, memory loss, sexual dysfunction, lung disease, muscle-related problems, cognitive loss, neuropathy, pancreatic dysfunction and liver dysfunction. More recent studies have also shown that statins cause type 2 diabetes and acute kidney injury.

    In addition, many doctors are concerned about statins and a potential increase in the risk for cancer and heart failure. A recent study found that the long term use of statins doubles the risk of breast cancer in women.

    The best estimates suggest that at around 20% of the people who take a statin will experience significant adverse effects. This needs to be considered when thinking about both primary and secondary prevention, since this 20% is a much greater number than the number of people who might benefit, even in secondary prevention. 



    1. Downs JR, et al. Primary prevention of acute coronary events with lovastatin in men and women with average cholesterol levels: results of AFCAPS/TexCAPS. Air Force/Texas Coronary Atherosclerosis Prevention Study. JAMA 1998; 279:1615-22.

    2. Sever PS, et al. Prevention of coronary and stroke events with atorvastatin in hypertensive patients who have average or lower-than-average cholesterol concentrations, in the Anglo-Scandinavian Cardiac Outcomes Trial-Lipid Lowering Arm (ASCOT-LLA): a multicentre randomised controlled trial. Lancet 2003; 361:1149-1158.

    3. Clhoun HM, et al. Primary prevention of cardiovascular disease with atorvastatin in type 2 diabetes in the Collaborative Atovastatin Diabetes Study (CARDS). Lancet 2004; 364:685-696.

    4. Pravastatin in elderly individuals at risk of vascular disease (PROSPER): a randomised controlled trial. Lancet 2002; 360:1623-1630.

    5. Shepherd J, et al. Prevention of coronary heart disease with pravastatin in men with hypercholesterolemia (WOSCOPS). N Engl J Med 1995; 333:1301-1307.

    6. Ray KK, et al. Statins and all-cause mortality in high-risk primary prevention: a meta-analysis of 11 randomized controlled trials involving 65,229 participants. Arch Intern Med. 2010; 170:1024-31.

    7. Zacharski, LR et al. The Statin–Iron Nexus: Anti-Inflammatory Intervention for Arterial Disease Prevention. American Journal of Public Health. Published online ahead of print February 14, 2013.



    Article Reminds Us of Long Fight Against Misinformation

    I was recently looking through a presentation compiled by Dr. Paul J. Rosch, that he gave at a conference in Saudi Arabia in 2010. One of Dr. Rosch's presentation slides displays an image of The Atlantic front cover from September 1989.

    This image  reminded me how long the fight against cholesterol misinformation has been going on for. Thomas Moore, MD makes the statement on the front cover:

    “Lowering your cholesterol is next to impossible with diet, and often dangerous with drugs – and it won't make you live any longer.”

    In my mind, it is astonishing that we knew this at least 23 years ago, and around 5 years before the mass prescription of statins really took off. Yet we still had to go through (and are still going through) many years of unnecessary statin damage to millions of people. Not to mention the other costs to society and the incredible waste of resources that have been directed at cholesterol-lowering.

    Here we are in 2013, with mountains of data available to us. Within all of this data, there is still no evidence whatsoever that cholesterol-lowering has benefited anyone's health. We now know that the situation is even worse, in that not only will we not live any longer as a result of cholesterol-lowering, but in fact, we are likely to die sooner with lower cholesterol levels.

    Dr Moore's article had a decent amount of exposure. At the time that the article was printed The Atlantic had a circulation of around 450,000. But this of course, was still no match for the immense resources of the pharmaceutical industry. During more recent years these companies have spent hundreds of millions each year promoting the cholesterol myth. 

    These sad facts, unfortunately, say quite a lot about the current state of our society. Much of what we believe is simply what powerful corporations would like us to believe. This of course does not only apply to medicine and health, but also climate change, the monetary system, energy production, poverty, food supply, and many other aspects of our daily lives.


    To see a video excerpt featuring Dr Rosch in STATIN NATION please click here

    To see Dr Rosch's full presentation, "STRESS MORE IMPORTANT THAN LDL", and for more information about how stress can affect the heart click here


    Iron Reduction Better than Statins

    Dr. Leo Zacharski and colleagues have recently published a study to help explain the effects of statin medications in secondary prevention.

    Statin medications do not provide any net benefit in primary prevention (given to people who do not have heart disease). Despite billions of dollars being spent on clinical trials, none of these trials have found any increase in overall life expectancy. However, there is an ongoing debate about the use of statins in secondary prevention.

    Some statin trials that have included mostly patients who have already had a heart attack, have shown significant reductions in heart attack risk and increases in life expectancy. On the other hand, there are different viewpoints about the amount of actual life extension that can be achieved, and there is insufficient long term data for us to make a proper assessment. 

    Even in secondary prevention, the potential benefits of taking a statin have got nothing to do with cholesterol levels. There is no consistency between the degree of cholesterol lowering and the amount of benefit. Therefore, we have known for some time that the potential benefits of statins in secondary prevention are due to the other effects of statins (commonly referred to as the pleiotropic effects).  

    The new study adds to our understanding of these other effects of statins and may provide an alternative treatment that avoids the significant adverse effects of statins.

    This new information relates to iron retention. Pathologic cellular iron retention has been implicated in several features of heart disease (systemic oxidative stress and vascular inflammation). Dr. Zacharski had previously found that iron reduction can reduce cardiovascular risk and improve life expectancy in some patients. 

    Statin medications are also known to have an effect on cellular iron. The new study compared the effects of statins on iron reduction and cholesterol levels (HDL/LDL ratio). It included patients with advanced peripheral arterial disease.

    Improved clinical outcomes were associated with lower iron levels but not with changes in cholesterol levels.

    This means that iron reduction may provide a low-cost alternative to statins for reducing inflammation associated with arterial disease.

    The iron reduction can be achieved via therapeutic phlebotomy (TP). The procedure is identical to blood donation, except that TP requires a doctor’s prescription. 

    Improved iron metabolism could also be achieved by appropriate dietary changes. Of course, the suggestion is not that people should avoid foods containing iron. Rather, each person should have their overall nutritional status assessed and appropriate changes made to reduce the accumulation of excess iron in the cells.


    Zacharski, LR et al. The Statin–Iron Nexus: Anti-Inflammatory Intervention for Arterial Disease Prevention. American Journal of Public Health. Published online ahead of print February 14, 2013.

    Zacharski, LR et al. Effect of controlled reduction of body iron stores on clinical outcomes in peripheral arterial disease. American Heart Journal 2011; 162 949-957. 


    Cholesterol Derivatives Found to Strengthen the Immune System

    New research has confirmed that derivatives of cholesterol play an important role in the immune system and could protect humans from a wide range of viruses such as Ebola, Rift Valley Fever, Nipah, and other deadly pathogens.

    Researchers (led by the University of California, Los Angeles) identified cholesterol-25-hydroxylase (CH25H) as a broadly antiviral gene.

    CH25H converts cholesterol to a soluble antiviral factor, 25-hydroxycholesterol (25HC). And treating cultured cells with 25HC, inhibited the growth of a wide range of deadly viruses.

    25HC suppressed viral growth by blocking membrane fusion between the virus and the cell.

    This may be one reason why people with low cholesterol tend to die more frequently from infections.

    Back in 1997, researchers in the Netherlands found that life expectancy increases when cholesterol levels are higher. Those with higher cholesterol levels appeared to be better protected from cancer and infections.

    Further evidence that higher cholesterol protects against infection was established by Professor Jacobs and Dr. Carlos Iribarren who followed more than 100,000 healthy individuals in the San Francisco area for fifteen years. At the end of the study those who had low cholesterol at the start of the study had a higher rate of infectious disease.


    Liu, Su-Yang et al. Interferon-Inducible Cholesterol-25-Hydroxylase Broadly Inhibits Viral Entry by Production of 25-Hydroxycholesterol. Immunity 2013; 38: 92–105.

    McDonald, JG and Russell, DW. Editorial: 25-Hydroxycholesterol: a new life in immunology. Journal of Leukocyte Biology vol. 88 no. 6 1071-1072.

    Weverling-Rijnsburger, AW et al. Total Cholesterol and Risk of Mortality in the Oldest Old. Lancet 1997; 350:1119-1123

    Iribarren, C et al. Cohort Study of Serum Total Cholesterol and In-Hospital Incidence of Infectious Diseases. Epidemiology and Infection 1998;121:335-347