Medical Myths Part 3

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.

  2. Int J Pharmacol Ther. 2003 Dec:41(12): 567-77.
  3. JAMA. 2004 May 12;291(18):2243-52.