Sunday 16 August 2015

Cholesterol is not a poison - official

After more than half a century of us being brainwashed the truth is starting to emerge. Up to now, cholesterol  has been viewed as a poison. It is a chemical that if taken by mouth allegedly causes disease (ill-effects) in all people and it is dose-dependent - the more taken and the higher the blood level, the greater the detrimental effect. The other effect of a chemical is an allergic reaction, which affects few people and is not dose dependent (small amounts can cause big effects). 

We have been told constantly that "Cholesterol is Bad". Where did this misinformation come from? Does it make sense that food that humankind has been eating for centuries or millennia suddenly became responsible for an epidemic of heart disease that emerged in about 1924, reached it peak in about 1970 and which has now declined by more than 95%? 

The diet-cholesterol-heart story has dominated our lives and our eating habits. The food industry has had major problems in respect of milk production in particular. There have been winners - the manufacturers of non-butter spreads and other low cholesterol and low fat foods. There is an obvious need to control obesity but this is about the quantity of food not its constituents.

Fortunately most people seem to have paid little attention to the diet-cholesterol story. I am intrigued to watch and enjoy the cooking programmes on the television, especially BBC Saturday Kitchen on a cold wet winter weekend. There is a major Italian influence, as a result of which the recipes generally include lots of eggs, butter, and double cream, with a generous pinch of salt. Our diet police must have been most unhappy with this programme, but now things have all changed.

A major influence on out diet was the Seven Countries Study, by Ancel Keys. The conclusion was probably written before the study was performed and was independent of the findings. It formed a major basis of the diet-heart-cholesterol hypothesis. Since then many studies have shown an absence of effect of cholesterol and fat on blood cholesterol levels and our health, but much of this evidence has effectively been ignored or suppressed.

A diet study from Canada in the British Medical Journal on August 15th 2015. The conclusion stated: "There was no convincing lack of association between saturated fat intake and CHD [coronary heart disease] mortality." The use of the expression "lack of" is an interesting spin - presenting bad news as somehow good. The statement could and should have read: "There was no convincing association between saturated fat intake and CHD mortality." 

But now the evidence of the failure of the diet-cholesterol-heart hypothesis is overwhelming and it can no longer be suppressed or ignored by the custodians of public diet.

The US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has just released the latest edition of Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The important and surprising messages are :

  • cholesterol is no longer regarded as a "nutrition of concern";
  • there is no limit on fat consumption (apart from controlling weight gain).

And so we can now eat with a clear conscience the foods that we (or at least I) enjoy so much - full English breakfast, Ham and Eggs, Duck breast, Eggs Benedict, Sausage & chips fries, and more. I confess however that I eat these infrequently.

And do not forget that blood level of cholesterol is not a good predictor of heart disease, and above the age of 60 years a high level is a good thing. This information is suppressed but perhaps it will come into the public arena in the way that the misinformation of dietary cholesterol has now emerged.


  1. What depressed me about the publication of this significant research was how the media - and even the utterances of the scientists involved - tended to say "You should not actually take any notice of this, it does not mean you can eat any more fat than the official recommendation" (And by implication with no increase in the proportion of fat you carry on with the present recommendations and can continue with your carbohydrate laden fat free foods)

  2. Hi Roger - I also noticed this media comment. It is so hard for "experts" to say that something is not bad for us. The fear of saying "Sorry, we were wrong".

  3. WHO has the average yearly cholesterol levels per country since 1980
    and the heart deaths per country per year since 1950,
    about 100 countries with some gaps.
    And I do see a clear positive correlation (correlation coefficient)
    for each year since 1980 in it ! (?)

    1. Positive correlation between heart deaths and "yearly cholesterol levels" - is this dietary intake? Heart (CHD) deaths have gone down dramatically. Does it mean that cholesterol intake has also gone down? There is a very poor correlation between blood cholesterol and CHD deaths and no relationship between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol. So forget cholesterol, but avoid gluttony!

  4. I assume, it's blood cholesterol levels
    mean total cholesterol, age-standardized estimates, mmol/L
    Hmm, they also have
    Raised total cholesterol (>=5.0 mmol/L)
    Raised total cholesterol (>=6.2 mmol/L)
    Mean total cholesterol trends (crude estimate)
    Maybe I should download+calculate correlation coefficients
    for those too.
    Yes, heart deaths and Cholesterin levels have gone down in most countries.
    The country-correlation looks good to me, but the "randomness" is maybe
    not so good, we have blocks with many countries : Eastern Europe,
    small Caribean, Western Europe - while Asia,Africa are underpresented.
    It could be interesting to check this for the 50 US-States but I didn't find the data.
    Maybe I can upload the charts later :
    cholesterol-levels+heart deaths over time (1980-2009) for ~100 countries

    1. OK, I made a picture:
      the correlation decreases from 1980 to 2009