Myth #3: Everyone with high cholesterol should take medicine to lower it.
Facts: Cholesterol is a natural substance in the human body. It is a component of every cell and a building block for many of our hormones. The “statin” drugs that are most commonly used to lower cholesterol work by disrupting normal cholesterol production. It is not surprising to learn then, that they have significant side effects including damage to muscle, the liver, and kidneys.
On the other hand, according to some of the best sources, statin drugs are only proven to help only one specific group of people live longer—men with heart disease. Researchers at the University of British Columbia concluded that “statins have not been shown to provide an overall health benefit in…prevention trials.”1 European researchers came to virtually the same conclusion, noting, “prevention with statins provides only a small and…hardly relevant improvement of cardiovascular morbidity/mortality.”2 And according to the Journal of the American Medical Association, taking medications for high cholesterol does not improve life expectancy for any group of women—even women with heart disease3
My opinion: Cholesterol-lowering medications have many side effects and should be used with caution. I believe that these medications should be reserved for people who are likely to improve their lifespan by taking them. Basically, that means men who already have heart disease. For all the others with high cholesterol, I believe that addressing the underlying causes of their problem is more important. In most such cases, identifying and treating conditions such as hypothyroidism, insulin resistance and excess body weight is a better approach.
- Int J Pharmacol Ther. 2003 Dec:41(12): 567-77.
- JAMA. 2004 May 12;291(18):2243-52.
Myth #2: Salt is bad for your health.
Facts: Salt has been widely used by many people for thousands of years without any obvious harm. On the other hand, salt is considered harmful because it contains lots of sodium which is supposed to raise blood pressure, leading to heart disease. It is true that cutting salt can lower blood pressure slightly, but we still don’t know if cutting back on salt is actually good for your health. Continue reading
Over the next few days I will be publishing what I find are Medical Myths that have been lingering for years that I would like to put to rest.
Myth #1: People who eat less fat, live longer
Facts: After over 50 years and hundreds of studies, researchers remain unable to prove that a low-fat diet is good for your health. A few years ago, researchers at the Cochrane Collaboration decided to review the medical literature and see what it said. They looked at the results of the 26 best studies and found that low-fat diets didn’t help people live longer. The researchers found that people on low-fat diets were 2% more likely to die than those in the comparison groups.1 Continue reading
Many people think that they are making a healthier choice when they reach for diet soda instead of a sugary soft drink? But research is telling them to “Think again”.
It is true that diet soft drinks may have minimal calories, but it appears that they can still have a major impact on your waistline, according to two studies presented at a meeting of the American Diabetes Association in San Diego.
In the first study, researchers at the Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio tracked 474 people, all 65 to 74 years old, for nearly a decade, measuring the subjects’ height, weight, waist circumference, and diet soft drink intake every 3.6 years. The waists of those who drank diet soft drinks grew 70 percent more than those who avoided the artificially sweetened stuff; people who drank two or more servings a day had waist-circumference increases that were five times larger than non-diet-soda consumers. Continue reading
I like to consider myself a person with decent common sense.
But every so often I come across a bit of information that has me scratching my head.
First, let me ask you a question. Would you think that 60 minutes of exercise a day would cause you to lose more weight than 30 minutes a day?
It is simple logic, twice the exercise leads to twice the calories burned and therefore more weight loss.
But not so fast… Continue reading
The routine use of mammograms had led to more than one million women receiving unnecessary treatment for breast cancer over the last three decades, according to a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (2012; 367:1998-2005). The authors concluded that nearly one-third of the women who received a diagnosis of breast cancer would never have developed the full-blown disease if left untreated. Nevertheless, in such cases patients typically undergo dangerous and invasive procedures such as surgery, radiation therapy, hormonal therapy, and chemotherapy. H. Gilbert Welch, author of the study, speculated that as mammography technology has become more advanced, doctors are discovering breast lesions in such an early stage of development, it is virtually impossible to distinguish them from benign cell clusters. Even worse than the false positives is the fact that the mammograms “fail to catch forms of breast cancer that develop rapidly, why the more widespread use of screenings has done so little to curb the rate at which late-stage breast cancer is found.” According to Welch, “The sad fact is that there’s a subset of women who develop such an aggressive form of cancer it literally can’t be caught early.” No one is voicing the thought that the mammograms themselves causing these virulent tumors.
Researchers at the University of Guelph tested four types of bread to ascertain the effects on blood sugar levels. Using white, whole wheat, whole wheat with barley and sourdough white breads, the team of researchers examined how subjects responded hours after eating the bread for breakfast and again just hours after eating a standard lunch. The subjects, who were overweight and ranged between fifty and sixty years of age, showed the most positive blood sugar responses after eating sourdough white bread. With the sourdough, the subject’s blood sugar levels were lower for a similar rise in blood insulin, and the positive effect remained during and after the second meal. What’s really interesting about this study is that the whole wheat breads—supposedly full of fiber that controls blood sugar levels—had the worst effects, causing blood sugar levels to spike, and these high levels lasted until well after lunch. Professor Terry Graham, head of the study, suggested that the poor response from the whole wheat bread was due to the milling process; but an equally likely explanation is the many anti-nutrients in whole grains that cause a stressful rise in blood sugar. These irritating and difficult-to-digest compounds are neutralized by the sourdough process. The team will soon be testing sourdough whole grain bread.
I like to recommend patients consume foods high in Vitamin A or take Cod Liver Oil which is high in Vitamin A because it has so many roles in human biochemistry, and because it is the most neglected and maligned vitamin in the popular literature. New research corroborates the fact that vitamin A is needed for thyroid function. In a four-month trial, fifty-six obese thyroid patients were randomly allocated to receive either 25,000 IU vitamin A per day or a placebo. In addition, twenty-eight non-obese thyroid patients received the vitamin. Vitamin A caused a significant reduction in blood thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) concentrations in both obese and non-obese patients along with an increase in T3. The researchers concluded: vitamin A supplementation might reduce the risk of subclinical hypothyroidism in premenopausal women. How about suggesting the consumption of vitamin A-rich food instead? Let’s reduce the risk of thyroid problems in everyone by encouraging the consumption of foods like liver, cod liver oil and grass-fed butter.
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