Cholesterol: The Misunderstood Molecule

Cholesterol is a very misunderstood molecule.

And though many people might not be aware of it, there has long been a vocal minority of doctors, researchers and health professionals who believe that cholesterol and fat have been wrongly convicted as the primary promoters of heart disease.

Along with a growing body of fellow health professionals, I believe that this emphasis on cholesterol has caused us to take our attention off what I believe to be the true promoters of heart diseases – inflammation, oxidative damage, stress and sugar.

Dollarphotoclub_70250597The evidence against cholesterol as a causal factor in heart disease is much weaker than was previously believed, and cardiologist Stephen Sinatra, MD, and I make that case in our new book, The Great Cholesterol Myth, complete with hundreds of medical references from peer-reviewed journals. We also believe that the statin drugs given to lower cholesterol are being over-prescribed, and are not without significant side effects.

Cholesterol is needed for life. It’s the parent molecule for all the major sex hormones, including estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. It’s needed for the immune system, and it’s needed for the brain. (In fact, one of the most serious side effects of cholesterol-lowering medication is memory loss.)

As we stated on the Dr. Oz Show: “Trying to prevent heart disease by lowering cholesterol is like trying to reduce calories by taking the lettuce off your double cheeseburger. It’s not that the lettuce doesn’t have any calories – it’s that lettuce is the wrong target.

And cholesterol is the wrong target if you’re trying to prevent heart disease.

We fervently believe that neither cholesterol nor fat is the major villain in the American diet – sugar is. We also believe that the case against cholesterol, which was made nearly 30 years ago, was based on faulty evidence. The case needs to be re-opened and the evidence needs to be re-examined.

Belief in the “Great Cholesterol Myth” has caused us to neglect the real causes of heart disease while obsessively focusing on an innocuous molecule that’s essential for life and that we believe has only a minor role in heart disease.