I’m Not Done Yet

Dear Health-Conscious Reader,

I’ve been saying that cholesterol is not the bad guy, that it doesn’t cause heart disease, for 15 years.

But I’m not done yet.

The reason I can’t let go of this is because the problem has actually gotten much worse, not better.

Seventy-five percent of the patients who come to me with heart disease are already on a statin drug when I see them.

My first job is to try and talk them out of taking them… they’re usually scared and think they’re going to die if they stop taking it.

The big drug makers love to run slick TV ads trying to convince you that lowering your LDL will protect you from heart disease. Doctors often further misinterpret the science and lead patients to believe that they have to lower their cholesterol with drugs or die of heart disease.

Because of this, statin drug use has increased over the last 15 years. Since I’ve been saying you shouldn’t take them:

  • There are 10 times as many people using statin drugs as there were in 1994.
  • Spending on statin medications increased by another $160 million in 2010.
  • The cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor was the biggest seller of any drug last year. It brought in $7.2 billion for Pfizer. Crestor, another statin, was also high on the bestseller list. It grossed $3.8 billion.
  • Statin use grew by 2.3 percent last year alone. Doctors wrote 255 million prescriptions for these drugs in 2010 – more than any other class of drug. That’s up from 210 million in 2006.1
  • Almost half the men in the U.S. who are over 65 have been put on a statin drug. And almost 40 percent of women. Here’s the chart from the government’s “Health 2010” report:

If you’ve gone to a cardiologist, you know what I’m talking about. Virtually every cardiologist in the country is putting virtually every one of their heart patients on a statin drug.

And it’s about to get worse. The FDA has given the OK for statin makers to market their drugs to completely healthy folks.

The companies are now allowed to try and get you to take a statin drug if you’re a man over 50 or a woman over 60 and you have one heart risk factor. Even if you are currently healthy with no history of heart problems.

Never mind that a comprehensive review of studies by the non-partisan Cochrane group found that doctors should not prescribe a statin to you if you fall into that group.2

Never mind that another review by the prestigious medical journal The Lancet found that statins increase the risk of diabetes by almost 10 percent.3

What makes that study so important is that no one was ever told statins could cause diabetes. The Lancet only found out because their review looked at most of the major clinical studies of statins, and also unpublished study results. They included the secret results of the Crestor study that the F.D.A. reviewed but were never made public.

The FDA and doctors have also closed their eyes to other dangerous side effects of these drugs. The list is long and frightening. Here are just a few:

It seems like they don’t even try and find out what’s causing your problem anymore. That’s not part of the diagnosis process. They just do this pattern of choices that’s from a differential diagnosis that they learned in a class. Someone has this symptom, this is how you sort through which diagnosis to make, and this is what you do.

And what you do always ends in a drug therapy or an operation. Those are the only things they consider. Anything else is not worthy of consideration. Not what someone might be eating… not what they might be doing. The process doesn’t have any faith in nature or your body.

Your body needs lots of cholesterol. Far from being the enemy that modern medicine claims, it’s really a building block essential for life. It makes your memory work, helps make your sex hormones and functions as a powerful antioxidant protecting you from cancer and aging.

Artificially lowering your cholesterol with a statin drug interferes with your body’s essential functions. Instead, what you want is high cholesterol. Specifically, you want to get your HDL cholesterol as high as you can get it. Then it doesn’t matter what your LDL is.

In fact, high HDL trumps other cholesterol concerns. Why isn’t this simple and powerful advice getting through? For one reason, there is no drug to boost HDL. What’s the best way to increase HDL cholesterol? With four simple steps:

Step 1) Eat More Fat: Fat is also an essential nutrient, just like cholesterol. The diet dictocrats are trying to ban all fat from your food. It’s only making Americans fatter and sicker. The truth is that healthy fats raise your HDL.

The first healthy fat to get more of is monounsaturated fat. One study found that people who ate the most monounsaturated fats had significantly higher HDL compared to people who ate the least. The same study also found that monounsaturated fats increase the effectiveness of the other things you do to raise your HDL.4 The fats you find in nuts, olive oil, avocados and beef fat are all monounsaturated fats.

The second kind of fat that will raise your HDL is a group called polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). You might know them better as the essential fatty acids omega-3s and omega-6s. To get more PUFAs, eating fish is your best bet. But I just read a study where they added plant based PUFAs like those in Sacha Inchi oil to fish oil and gave it people to help raise their HDL. The plant nutrients increased the effectiveness of the fish oil to raise HDL even more.5

You want to get more omega-3s than omega-6s. Eat high-quality wild-caught fish, and stay away from farm-raised fish that have too many omega-6s and not enough omega-3s. Cod liver oil and Sacha Inchi oil are your best supplement sources for PUFAs.

Step 2) Eat More Meat: Here’s one of my favorite stories that shows how wrong modern science is when it comes to their attitude toward cholesterol. “Educators” were looking to prove that you shouldn’t eat meat because it raises LDL cholesterol. They believe the modern myth that meat is bad for you.

So these people from The National Cholesterol Education Program did a study. I would have loved to be a part of this one. They had people eat almost a half pound of lean red meat or lean white meat every day for two 36-week periods. In between, the people could eat whatever kinds of meat they wanted.

The researchers were surprised to find that eating meat raises HDL and lowers total cholesterol. And it doesn’t matter if it’s white or red meat.6 It was no surprise to me. I’ve been basing all my meals around protein as long as I can remember and my HDL is 105.

But here’s the kicker. Stay away from grain fed meats.

Stick with meat from grass-fed animals. Grass-fed beef has more healthy fats like omega-3 and fewer calories than grain-fed. It also has more B vitamins, CoQ10, zinc, vitamin E, and beta-carotene.

Step 3) Take The Vitamin E You’ve Never Heard Of: Vitamin E is actually a group of eight nutrients, four tocopherols, and four tocotrienols. The vitamin E you can buy at the store is usually only the alpha-tocopherol. But the alpha, beta, gamma and delta tocotrienols have powerful heart benefits.

A new study that shows tocotrienols raise HDL and also lower two other heart risk markers, triglycerides and C-reactive protein.7 Plus, tocotrienols have more antioxidant activity than tocopherols and are anti-inflammatory.

Cranberries, coconuts, chicken and palm oil have tocotrienols, but not much. Personally, my favorite source is annatto. I first encountered it in the Andes Mountains. The natives there recognize annatto oil as a powerful health tonic.

You can find annatto and palm oil at your local health food store or specialty grocery store. You can also use a tocotrienols supplement. Look for one that has as much gamma and delta tocotrienols as you can get, because those are the two that seem to have the most benefit.

Step 4) There’s one more thing you should do to keep your HDL high. Use my P.A.C.E program. My alternative to aerobics and cardio reliably boosts HDL because you focus on slightly increasing the intensity of your exertion with each workout, not on making them longer.

One study looked at the effects of shorter periods of intense training on HDL, and found that intense training raised HDL by 15 percent.8 And remember, that study was simply looking at higher intensity for short periods vs. lower intensity for longer periods. If they would have tested for P.A.C.E, there would have been even more dramatic differences.

I often prescribe P.A.C.E to my patients who need to raise their HDL. All it takes is 12 minutes a day, three times a week.

To Your Good Health,

Al Sears, MD


1 “The Use of Medicines in the United States: Review of 2010” IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, www.imshealth.com
2 Taylor, F., Ward, K., Moore, T.H.M., et al, “Statins for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease,” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2011; 1(CD004816)
3 Sattar, N.. et al, “Statins and risk of incident diabetes: a collaborative meta-analysis of randomised statin trials,” The Lancet Feb 27, 2010;375(9716):735-42
4 Jenkins, D.J., “Adding monounsaturated fatty acids to a dietary portfolio of cholesterol-lowering foods in hypercholesterolemia,” CMAJ Dec. 14,2010;182(18):1961-7
5 Micallef, M.A., Garg, M.L., “The lipid-lowering effects of phytosterols and (n-3) polyunsaturated fatty acids are synergistic and complementary in hyperlipidemic men and women,” J. Nutr. June 2008;138(6):1086-90
6 Hunninghake, et al, “Incorporation of lean red meat into a National Cholesterol Education Program Step I Diet,” Journal of the American College of Nutrition 2000;19(3):351-360
7 Prasad, K., “Tocotrienols and Cardiovascular Health,” Curr Pharm Des. Jul 21, 2011
8 Musa, D.I., Adeniran, S.A., Dikko, A.U., Sayers, S.P., “The effect of a high-intensity interval training program on high-density lipoprotein cholesterol…” J. Strength Cond Res. Mar. 2009;23(2):587-92