In a survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the vast majority of Americans (76 percent) said they had had their cholesterol level checked at least once in the previous five years.1
Despite the commonality of the cholesterol test, many are seriously misled about what the results of the test mean. Many people aren't even receiving a useful cholesterol test at all.
A total cholesterol test, for instance, tells you practically nothing about your health. What you really need to know is how much high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) you have and, beyond that, the size of the LDL particles.
If you're confused, it's not your fault. Cholesterol has been a highly publicized scapegoat for causing heart disease for decades, and many have diligently cut all cholesterol-rich foods (which are often also nutrient-rich foods) from their diets as a result.
Others have opted to take cholesterol-lowering statin drugs at the behest of their physicians. More than 1 in 4 Americans over 45 take them, despite their lengthy list of side effects and dubious effectiveness. But the real question is this: do you really need to be worried about cholesterol?
Is it the villain that's it's portrayed to be, silently clogging up your arteries and putting you at a dangerously high risk of heart attack, one cholesterol-laden egg yolk at a time? The answer is, for most people, no. So let's put some of the most widely circulated cholesterol myths to bed once and for all.
Myth: Cholesterol Is Bad
Cholesterol is not inherently bad. If it were, your liver wouldn't produce it (unbeknownst to many, your liver makes about three-quarters or more of your body's cholesterol—that's how important it is).
Many of the healthiest foods happen to be rich in cholesterol (and saturated fats), yet cholesterol has been demonized since the early 1950s following the popularization of Ancel Keys' flawed research.
In reality, cholesterol has many health benefits. It plays a key role in regulating protein pathways involved in cell signaling and may also regulate other cellular processes,2 for instance.
It's already known that cholesterol plays a critical role within your cell membranes, but research suggests cholesterol also interacts with proteins inside your cells, adding even more importance. Your body is composed of trillions of cells that need to interact with each other.
Cholesterol is one of the molecules that allow for these interactions to take place. For example, cholesterol is the precursor to bile acids, so without sufficient amounts of cholesterol, your digestive system can be adversely affected.
It also plays an essential role in your brain, which contains about 25 percent of the cholesterol in your body. It is critical for synapse formation, i.e. the connections between your neurons, which allow you to think, learn new things, and form memories.
Myth: High Cholesterol Is Caused by What You Eat
This is simply untrue. The biggest factor in cholesterol is not diet but genetics or heredity. Your liver is designed to remove excess cholesterol from your body, but genetics play a large part in your liver's ability to regulate cholesterol to a healthy level.
Take, for instance, people with genetic familial hypercholesterolemia. This is a condition characterized by abnormally high cholesterol, which tends to be resistant to lowering with lifestyle strategies like diet and exercise.
Further, eating nutritious cholesterol-rich foods is not something you should feel guilty about; they're good for you and will not drive up your cholesterol levels as you may have been told. It's estimated that only 20 percent of your blood cholesterol levels come from your diet.
One survey of South Carolina adults found no correlation of blood cholesterol levels with so-called "bad" dietary habits, such as consumption of red meat, animal fats, butter, eggs, whole milk, bacon, sausage and cheese.3
If you're still worried about the cholesterol in your diet, take a look at the newly released 2015 U.S. Dietary Guidelines. As recently as 2010, U.S. dietary guidelines described cholesterol-rich foods as "foods and food components to reduce."4
They advised people to eat less than 300 milligrams (mg) per day, despite mounting evidence that dietary cholesterol has very little to do with cholesterol levels in your body.
The latest guidelines have finally removed this misguided suggestion, and they even added egg yolks to the list of suggested sources of protein.
The long-overdue change came at the advice of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), which acknowledged what the science shows, which is that "cholesterol is not considered a nutrient of concern for overconsumption."5
Myth: Everyone's Cholesterol Level Should Be the Same
What is a healthy cholesterol level? That depends. Despite what your doctor may tell you, there's no rule that says everyone's total cholesterol should be less than 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) and your LDL less than 100 mg/dL.
Further, this will tell you very little about your heart disease risk. If your doctor tells you your cholesterol is too high based on the standard lipid profile, getting a more complete picture is important—especially if you have a family history of heart disease or other risk factors.
For starters, you can ask for a NMR LipoProfile, which looks at particle sizes of LDL cholesterol.
Large LDL particles are not harmful. Only small dense LDL particles can potentially be a problem, as they can squeeze through the lining of your arteries. If they oxidize, they can cause damage and inflammation.
Some groups, such as the National Lipid Association (NLA), are now starting to shift the focus toward LDL particle number instead of total and LDL cholesterol, in order to better assess your heart disease risk. But it still has not hit mainstream.
In addition, the following tests can give you a far better assessment of your heart disease risk than your total cholesterol alone:
• HDL/Cholesterol ratio: HDL percentage is a very potent heart disease risk factor. Just divide your HDL level by your total cholesterol. That percentage should ideally be above 24 percent.
• Triglyceride/HDL ratios: You can also do the same thing with your triglycerides and HDL ratio. That percentage should be below 2.
• Your fasting insulin level: Any meal or snack high in carbohydrates like fructose and refined grains generates a rapid rise in blood glucose and then insulin to compensate for the rise in blood sugar.
The insulin released from eating too many carbs promotes fat accumulation and makes it more difficult for your body to shed excess weight. Excess fat, particularly around your belly, is one of the major contributors to heart disease
• Your fasting blood sugar level: Studies have shown that people with a fasting blood sugar level of 100-125 mg/dl had a nearly 300 percent increased higher risk of having coronary heart disease than people with a level below 79 mg/dl.
• Your iron level: Iron can be a very potent oxidative stress, so if you have excess iron levels you can damage your blood vessels and increase your risk of heart disease. Ideally, you should monitor your ferritin levels and make sure they are not much above 80 ng/ml.
The simplest way to lower them if they are elevated is to donate your blood. If that is not possible you can have a therapeutic phlebotomy and that will effectively eliminate the excess iron from your body.
Myth: Children Cannot Have High Cholesterol
It's possible for children to have high cholesterol levels, which is typically due to a liver problem that makes the liver unable to remove excess cholesterol from the body. Lifestyle changes, including exercise, limiting sugar intake and eating real (not processed) foods, will often help to restore healthy levels.
Myth: Margarine Is Better Than Butter for Cholesterol
Butter, especially raw organic butter from grass-fed cows, is a wealth of nutrition and nourishing fats. Research points to the fact that butter may have both short-term and long-term benefits for your health. A Swedish study found that fat levels in your blood are lower after eating a meal rich in butter than after eating one rich in olive oil, canola oil, or flaxseed oil.6
Further, replacing saturated animal fats with omega-6 polyunsaturated vegetable fats (i.e., margarine) is linked to an increased risk of death among patients with heart disease, according to a 2013 BMJ study.7 Swapping margarine for healthy butter is the opposite of what your body needs for heart health, and here's why. Saturated fats have been shown to raise HDL cholesterol—a benefit—and may also increase LDL.
The latter isn't necessarily bad either, as research has confirmed that eating saturated fats raises levels of large, fluffy LDL particles—the type that do not contribute to heart disease. Further, eating saturated fat may even change the small, dense LDL in your body into the healthier large, fluffy LDL!8,9
On the other hand, margarine has historically contained synthetic trans fat, the worst type of man-made fat that increases small, dense LDL—and your risk of chronic disease.
In October 2015, drug maker Eli Lilly stopped a trial for a cholesterol-lowering drug called evacetrapib. Many believed the drug, which could not only lower LDL cholesterol but also raise HDL, would be the next blockbuster cholesterol treatment.
But it wasn't until April 2016, when the results of the study were presented at the American College of Cardiology's annual meeting, that health professionals learned just how dismal the study results were. The drug had virtually no impact on heart health. As The New York Times reported:10
"Participants taking the drug saw their LDL levels fall to an average of 55 milligrams per deciliter from 84. Their HDL levels rose to an average of 104 milligram per deciliter from 46. Yet 256 participants had heart attacks, compared with 255 patients in the group who were taking a placebo.
Ninety-two patients taking the drug had a stroke, compared with 95 in the placebo group. And 434 people taking the drug died from cardiovascular disease, such as a heart attack or a stroke, compared with 444 participants who were taking a placebo."
Dr. Steven Nissen of the Cleveland Clinic told The New York Times, "These kinds of studies are wake-up calls." Indeed, it's not the first time a cholesterol-lowering drug has been found to be worthless, or worse, when it comes to heart health.
There is evidence showing that statins may make your heart health worse and only appear effective due to statistical deception. One report published in the Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology concluded that statin advocates used a statistical tool called relative risk reduction (RRR) to amplify statins' trivial beneficial effects.11
If you look at absolute risk, statin drugs benefit just 1 percent of the population. This means that out of 100 people treated with the drugs, one person will have one less heart attack. This doesn't sound so impressive, so statin supporters use a different statistic called relative risk. Just by making this statistical slight of hand, statins suddenly become beneficial for 30-50 percent of the population.
As STATS at George Mason University explained, "An important feature of relative risk is that it tells you nothing about the actual risk."12 Further, statins deplete your body of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), which is used for energy production by every cell in your body, and is therefore vital for good health, high-energy levels, longevity, and general quality of life.
CoQ10's reduced form, ubiquinol, is a critical component of cellular respiration and production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is a coenzyme used as an energy carrier in every cell of your body. When you consider that your heart is the most energy-demanding organ in your body, you can surmise how potentially devastating it can be to deplete your body's main source of cellular energy.
So while one of statins' claims to fame is warding off heart disease, you're actually increasing your risk when you deplete your body of CoQ10. The depletion of CoQ10 caused by the drug is why statins can increase your risk of acute heart failure.
If you take a statin drug, you MUST take Coenzyme Q10 as a supplement. If you're over 40, I would strongly recommend taking ubiquinol (CoQ10's reduced form) instead of CoQ10, as it's far more effectively absorbed by your body.
Are you looking for a non-drug way to boost your heart health? Here are some of my top recommendations:
By Rachael Link, MS, RD
Your heart plays a crucial role in your health. Its responsible for pumping blood throughout the body to supply your tissues with important nutrients and oxygen, and it works tirelessly 24/7 to keep you going. What you eat directly influences the health of your heart, and incorporating a few heart-healthy foods into your diet is key to providing it with the nutrients that it needs.
These foods can also reduce the risk of the dangerous heart conditions and heart diseases that affect millions worldwide. Combined with a healthy lifestyle and nutritious diet, getting in your fix of these heart-healthy foods is the best way to keep your heart strong and healthy to help stave off coronary heart disease risk factors.
Almost all of us know someone who has been affected by heart disease at some point. Unfortunately, heart disease is incredibly prevalent around the world, and when you start to break it down by the numbers, it can be pretty alarming.
Here are some chilling statistics about heart disease in the United States, according to a report published by the American Heart Association: (1)
Rich in fiber and full of health benefits, oats are an excellent addition to a cardiac diet. They're especially high in a type of fiber known as beta-glucan, a polysaccharide that's found in the cell walls of bacteria, fungi and cereals.
Oat beta-glucan has been associated with a long list of heart-healthy benefits. One 2011 analysis, for example, showed that oat consumption is associated with a 5 percent to 7 percent reduction in total and bad LDL cholesterol levels. (2) Meanwhile, another review published in the journal BMJ looked at the results of 22 studies and found that higher fiber intake was associated with a lower risk of both heart disease and coronary heart disease. (3)
For a few heart-healthy snacks, try adding oats to your high-fiber smoothies, mix them with almond milk to make overnight oatmeal or sprinkle them on top of your probiotic yogurt to add a delicious crunch.
Full of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, fatty varieties of fish like wild-caught salmon pack in a powerful punch when it comes to heart health. In fact, the American Heart Association even recommends getting in at least two servings of fish per week to keep your heart in tip-top shape. (4)
In addition to its omega-3 fatty acid content, salmon is also a great source of protein, loaded with selenium and rich in important B-vitamins, including vitamin B12 and niacin.
Whole grains are any type of grain that contains the endosperm, germ and bran, resulting in a higher concentration of nutrients and fiber than grains that have been refined and heavily processed. This includes grains like whole wheat, barley and rye as well as gluten-free grains such as amaranth, brown rice, millet, buckwheat, quinoa and sorghum.
These nutritious grains are generally high in important nutrients, such as fiber, B-vitamins, iron, magnesium and selenium. Some research has also found that whole grains could be beneficial for your heart. One massive review composed of 45 studies even concluded that eating more whole grains was associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. (8)
For best results, swap out your refined white bread and pasta for nutrient-rich options like quinoa or brown rice, and be sure to pair it with heart-healthy fats, plenty of veggies and protein to make it a delicious heart-healthy meal.
Well-known for their impressive nutrient profile and extensive health benefits, walnuts are one of the most powerful heart-healthy foods that you can incorporate into your diet.
According to one study published in theJournal of Nutrition, walnuts have been shown to reduce bad LDL cholesterol by up to 16 percent and also drop blood pressure. They may also help improve blood vessel function, decrease certain markers of inflammation and reduce oxidative stress. (9)
Plus, walnuts pack in quite a bit of manganese, dietary fiber and copper, as well as plenty of heart-healthy fats. However, keep in mind that walnuts also contain a concentrated amount of calories. Measure out your portions and moderate your intake to keep your waistline in check.
Greens like spinach, kale, collard greens and chard are powerhouses of nutrition. They're nutrient-dense foods, meaning that they are low in calories but supply tons of vitamins and minerals, like vitamin K, vitamin A, folate, magnesium, potassium and iron. They're also high in beneficial antioxidants that can help fight free radicals, prevent cell damage and slow the development of chronic disease.
Getting in your daily dose of greens can have big benefits in terms of heart health. A 2016 review out of Texas, for instance, compiled the results of eight studies and found that a high intake of leafy green and cruciferous vegetables was associated with a nearly 16 percent reduction in the risk of heart disease. (11)
With their creamy texture and light taste, avocados are a popular favorite in everything from guacamole to omelettes. In fact, the avocado is an excellent source of heart-healthy fats, plus other important nutrients like potassium, vitamin E and vitamin K.
A 2015 study published in theJournal of the American Heart Associationshowed that including one avocado per day as part of a moderate-fat diet could help lower cholesterol levels, potentially reducing the risk of heart disease. (15) Another animal study found that supplementing with avocado oil decreased levels of triglycerides and cholesterol, plus helped reduce inflammation as well. (16)
Blueberries, strawberries and blackberries are brimming with heart-healthy antioxidants that help fight off free radicals and prevent disease. Research even shows that eating more berries could help protect against metabolic syndrome, inflammation and neurological conditions like Alzheimer's. (17, 18, 19)
Berries may also have a significant impact on heart health. A 2016 review compiled the results of 22 studies with 1,251 participants and found that higher berry consumption led to reductions in bad LDL cholesterol levels, blood pressure, body weight and inflammation. (20)
Plus, berries also contain several nutrients that are essential to a healthy heart, including fiber, vitamin C and vitamin K. Enjoy them as is for a nutritious way to satisfy your sweet tooth, or try mixing them into smoothies, oats or probiotic yogurt.
1. Refined Carbohydrates
During processing, refined grains are stripped of the bran and germ, two parts of the grain kernel that contain a wealth of nutrients. The final product is a starch with next to no nutritional value, providing little more than carbohydrates and calories.
Refined carbohydrates can be found in a wide variety of foods, including white bread, pasta and rice, muffins, cakes, cookies, crackers, and bagels. Unfortunately, these foods make up a pretty good chunk of the modern Western diet and may be linked to a higher risk of heart disease.
One study out of China, for example, found that a higher carbohydrate intake, mainly from refined grains, was associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease among 117,366 adults. (21)
Ditching the soda is one of the best things that you can do for your heart. Besides being laden with controversial chemicals and unhealthy ingredients, soda is also brimming with added sugars.
Sugar is one of the main culprits of heart disease. Added sugars from foods like candy, desserts, juice and soda can spike blood sugar levels, damaging the blood vessels, overloading the liver and amping up the risk of heart disease.
Interestingly, a study from Harvard School of Public Health actually found that participants who drank the highest amount of sugar-sweetened beverages had a 20 percent higher relative risk of developing coronary heart disease than those who drank the lowest amount. Sugar-sweetened beverage consumption was also associated with higher triglycerides and markers of inflammation, plus lower levels of good HDL cholesterol. (22)
Margarine is usually high in trans fats, a type of fat often used by food manufacturers to enhance the flavor of foods and lengthen shelf life at the cost of your health.
Ideally, trans fats should be cut out of your diet altogether. One study actually found that the risk of coronary heart disease doubled with each 2 percent increase in calories from trans fats. (23) Another researcher even concluded: On a per-calorie basis, trans fats appear to increase the risk of CHD more than any other micronutrient. (24)
Opt for grass-fed organic butter or ghee instead of margarine, and limit other sources of trans fats as well, including store-bought cakes, cookies, donuts and biscuits.
In recent years, there have been numerous studies connecting processed meats like hot dogs and lunch meat to a slew of adverse effects on health. Not surprisingly, processed meats can also negatively affect heart health.
Processed meats are pumped full of additives and preservatives that can be harmful to health. They also contain potentially dangerous chemical compounds like heterocyclic amines and nitrites, which have been linked to conditions like cancer. (25) They also tend to be high in sodium, which may impact blood pressure in those who are salt-sensitive. (26)
Salty snacks like potato chips, pretzels and microwave popcorn are chock-full of added ingredients that can take a serious toll on the health of your heart. They're also loaded with sodium, which may increase blood pressure, placing extra strain on the heart and causing it to weaken.
The most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams per day. (28) For those with hypertension, cutting back on salt intake by eliminating foods like salty snacks from the diet can lead to significant reductions in blood pressure. (29)
Following a heart-healthy diet doesn't have to be difficult or time-consuming. Armed with the above list of healthy foods, you can easily pre-plan some healthy meals to fit in all of the nutrients that you need.
In addition to incorporating plenty of heart-healthy foods into your diet, its important to take a look at the rest of your diet as well. The majority of your diet should consist of unprocessed, whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, meats and whole grains. When you're grocery shopping, stick to the outer sections of the store and avoid wandering into the middle where the heavily processed junk foods lurk.
Be sure to also opt for healthy fats when you're cooking or baking. Skip the vegetable oils, margarine and shortening, and choose nutrient-rich coconut oil, extra-virgin olive oil, butter or ghee instead.
For those with high blood pressure, limiting your sodium intake is also critical. Steer clear of fast food, frozen meals and convenience foods, all of which can be hidden sources of sodium.
If this all seems overwhelming, no worries. Start by making one small change each week, and you'll work your way up to a healthy, well-rounded diet in no time!
There are many factors that can increase your risk of having heart problems. Here are a few of the main risk factors for heart disease: (30)
Filling your plate with heart-healthy foods can definitely make a big impact on your risk of heart disease, but its not the only factor that should be considered. In fact, even just making a few minor adjustments in your daily routine can have a huge effect on the health of your heart. Here are a few tips for improving your heart health even more:
Although these foods may be associated with some impressive health benefits, chowing down on a few walnuts per day wont make much of a difference if the rest of your diet is filled with ultra-processed foods.
Use these heart-healthy foods to round out a nutritious diet filled with fruits, vegetables, proteins, whole grains and healthy fats. Additionally, make sure to combine them with an active lifestyle, minimal stress levels and adequate sleep.
If you do have heart problems, be sure to talk to your doctor and pair these heart-healthy foods with your treatment plan to maximize your results and see the most benefit to your health.
Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) is the leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for 1 in every 4 deaths (1). It claims over 370,000 lives in the U.S. annually and contributes significantly to the $1 billion a day that America spends on medical costs and loss of productivity costs associated with cardiovascular diseases (2). This is an incredible amount of money and lives lost to a preventable disease.
CHD occurs when the arteries leading to and from the heart become hardened and narrowed due to a buildup of a waxy substance known as plaque. The process of this buildup is known as ‘atherosclerosis’ and generally occurs gradually as we age. Over time this plaque can harden or rupture, reducing or blocking the flow of oxygen-rich blood from the heart and resulting in either a heart attack or angina. Most people are unaware of the fact that they have a heart disease until this point.
Recent scientific advances have established that inflammation plays a key role in mediating all stages of CHD from the initiation of atherosclerosis to the resulting heart attacks or anginas (3). Additionally, the structure and function of the artery epithelial lining also plays an important role as studies have found that when it is dysfunctional it may lead to the initiation of plaque (4).
This provides an exciting opportunity to use natural therapies and foods to heal the body. We recommend a two pronged approach - the first is to focus on adding anti-inflammatory foods, herbs and supplements. The second is to ensure that the body has access to all of the necessary building blocks for healthy arterial lining.
Major contributing factors in CHD include systemic inflammation, poor diet, lack of physical activity, chronic stress, smoking, being overweight or obese, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and having diabetes or insulin resistance. Male gender, family history of heart disease and age are also associated with increased risk of CHD.
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) is a major risk factor for a heart attack or stroke.
Optimal systolic under 120, diastolic under 90 mm Hg
If you are on any medications please check with your practitioner about possible interactions before making dietary changes.
Cholesterol isn't a plague that you need to avoid. In fact, cholesterol is required in several important body functions. Yet conventional doctors often neglect to tell you this and unnecessarily prescribe statins or cholesterol-lowering drugs, putting you at risk of well-documented side effects.
It's time for you to learn the truth about cholesterol, and the better indicators of heart disease than just your total cholesterol level. Check out this infographic and help educate others by sharing this with your friends and family.
One in 4 Americans over the age of 45 is on a statin drug to lower their cholesterol. Are these drugs really as bad as some of the evidence suggests — or might they be even worse than suspected? Stephanie Seneff, Ph.D., is a senior research scientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) whom I’ve interviewed on a number of occasions.
She’s an absolute treasure trove of valuable health information. Here, we discuss statin drugs, which are also featured in her fictional book, “Cindy and Erica's Obsession to Solve the Healthcare Crisis in America,” for which I wrote the foreword. The story, while fictional, is based on Seneff’s own life and passion for science, and delves into autism, Alzheimer’s, statins, vaccines, glyphosate and more.
In this interview, we focus on another book, “The Dark Side of Statins: Plus, the Wonder of Cholesterol,”1 the last one written by Dr. Duane Graveline, who himself was a victim of statin side effects and died from complications related to statin use. Seneff’s husband was also severely affected by statins, which triggered her scientific exploration into these popular drugs.
“He really changed my career by getting sick,” she says. “He was diagnosed with heart disease 10 years ago and put on a high-dose statin — four times the normal dosage. The doctor said, ‘You have to take this for the rest of your life. If you don't, I will no longer be your doctor.’ And he immediately started suffering from side effects — muscle pains and weakness; even the road rage and behavioral changes.
I just knew this drug wasn't working and I started researching statins … In fact, I started doing it as part of my work at MIT. I started analyzing statin side effects and finding all kinds of horrible things. He got off them after a year. He slowly tapered it down and I'm happy to say he's statin free and doing great at this point, 10 years later. His doctors keep on reminding him [to go back on a statin] and he keeps on telling them no, politely.”
As noted by Seneff, it’s pretty easy to overestimate the benefits of statins by confusing people with absolute and relative risk. This is a statistical trick used quite frequently to demonstrate drug effectiveness. Seneff explains:
“They do a study in which the absolute risk is very rare. Let's say 2 percent of the population is actually expected to have whatever it is they're monitoring, like, say, a heart attack. They then look over a period of time and find that 2 percent of the control group has the occurrence [they’re looking for, in this case a heart attack] and the treatment group has, let's say, 1.5 percent instead of 2 percent.
That's a 0.5 percent decreased risk from [the individual’s] standpoint, but from their standpoint, it’s a 25 percent improved performance because it's 0.5 out of 2 — one-quarter of the relative risk has been taken away. Therefore, it's a 25 percent improvement, which sounds much better than 0.5 percent.”
Unfortunately, while statins may decrease the frequency of mild heart attacks, they will not necessarily lower your risk of heart disease or death from a major heart attack because of the damage they do to your muscles, including your heart muscle. On a side note, statins’ ability to lower the risk of minor heart attacks is likely related to their ability to lower C-reactive protein, far more so than the lowering of cholesterol.
However, according to Graveline, you only need one-tenth of the dosage, say 2 milligrams (mg) rather than 20 mg to get this anti-inflammatory benefit, and there are far safer and more effective ways to lower inflammation than taking a statin, even at a low dosage. As Seneff says, “You're trading heart attack for heart failure, and I think a heart attack is preferred over heart failure.” There are three primary reasons why statins fail to decrease the rate of death from heart disease:
1. Statins lower your cholesterol, which is an important precursor for many of your steroid hormones, including progesterone, testosterone, aldosterone, cortisol and vitamin D. Cholesterol sulfate (produced when you expose your skin to the sun) enters cell membranes and helps build structured water that protects against oxidative damage. Cholesterol is also needed to create DHEA sulfate.
2. They also deplete your body of Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), which is needed for muscle health, and lowers your levels of vitamin K2 and HMG co-enzyme A reductase, the latter of which is an enzyme your liver uses to make ketones. So, if you're on a statin drug, you have dramatically impaired ketone production, even if you’re fasting.
3. Statins also lower dolichol, which Graveline believed is just as important as CoQ10. Not only does dolichol play an important role in mitochondrial function, it is also responsible for the process of putting sugar chains on top of glycosylated proteins. This is important because these so-called glycosaminoglycans help maintain the barrier function in the cell and regulate the uptake of nutrients.
In practical terms, this means that your muscle cells (including your heart cells), which require lots of energy, get heavily impacted by statins. One side effect from lack of dolichol is Type 2 diabetes, and statins have indeed been found to cause drug-induced diabetes. Dolichol also fixes DNA mistakes. CoQ10, a powerful antioxidant, also helps, and both of these DNA “repair masters” are depleted by statins.
Contrary to popular belief, high cholesterol is not a primary risk factor for heart disease. It’s actually a vital nutrient needed for health that shouldn’t be artificially and indiscriminately suppressed.
“That's absolutely true,” Seneff says. “When my husband was prescribed a statin, I knew cholesterol was vitally important to the body and I knew there was high concentrations in the brain. Two percent of the body's weight and 25 percent of the body's cholesterol in the brain. So, you don't want to mess with losing cholesterol in your brain. Of course, statin side effects include a lot of cognitive issues and that was one of the things that faced Graveline.
He suffered something called transient global amnesia after taking statins for about three months. The doctors said, ‘No way the statin could be causing that,’ but he wanted to [stop taking] it anyway … A year later, the doctor said, ‘Well, the statin didn't cause it, so you should go back on the statin because you still have high cholesterol.’ He went back on [the statin] and shortly thereafter he had another episode of transient global amnesia. From that point on, he stopped taking the statin.
Then he became obsessed and wrote several books on statins … [H]e died of an ALS-like condition, which he suspected the statins had contributed toward … [I]n the book he says, ‘Statins make you grow older faster.’ And I think that's a very good way to describe them.
They give you all the things you get when you get older, faster. And since you never got old before, you don't know how fast you're supposed to get old, so you just think, ‘Well, I'm getting old. This is just the way it is.’ And it's not. It should be much, much slower … So, everyone gets duped. Each person individually gets old fast and doesn't realize that's happening to them because of the statin.”
Two factors that can have a significant impact on your heart health and risk of heart disease are exposure to glyphosate-containing pesticides and electromagnetic fields (EMFs). Seneff touches on both of these issues in this interview, noting that each also has a tendency to worsen the effects of the other. “I think glyphosate messes up your natural electrical system, which makes you much more susceptible to EMFs,” she says.
Considering the evidence, I firmly believe excessive exposure to microwave radiation from cellphones and other wireless technologies are a hidden and completely ignored contributor to heart disease. While evaluating studies showing you can radically reduce biological microwave damage using calcium channel blockers, Martin Pall, Ph.D., discovered a previously unknown mechanism of biological harm from microwaves emitted by wireless technologies.2
Embedded in your cell membranes are voltage gated calcium channels (VGCCs), which are activated by microwaves. When that happens, they open up, allowing a massive influx of intracellular calcium, which in turn stimulates the release of nitric oxide (NO). Inside your cell and mitochondria, this NO combines with superoxide to form peroxynitrite. Not only do peroxynitrites cause oxidative damage, they also create hydroxyl free radicals, which are profoundly destructive and cause mitochondrial dysfunction.
One of the tissues with the highest density of VGCCs is the pacemaker in your heart. What the research tells us is that excessive microwave exposure can be a direct contributor to conditions such as cardiac arrhythmias.3 According to Seneff, EMFs also contribute to arterial calcification (blocked arteries). So, if you care about your heart health, and/or already struggle with heart problems, you’ll want to make sure you:
Both glyphosate and EMF exposure have dramatically increased in recent decades. Between 1974 (the year glyphosate entered the U.S. market and just over two decades before GE crops were introduced) and 2014, glyphosate use in the U.S. increased more than 250-fold. Globally, glyphosate use rose nearly fifteenfold since 1996, two years after the first GE crops hit the market.4,5
Recent research shows that while few individuals had detectable levels of glyphosate in their urine in 1993, by 2016, 70 percent of them had it.6 Overall, the prevalence of human exposure to glyphosate increased by 500 percent during the study period (1993 to 2016), while actual levels of the chemical in people’s bodies increased by an astounding 1,208 percent.
Seneff has done a lot of research on glyphosate, teasing out a number of mechanisms by which it causes biological harm. Much of this was discussed in “Roundup Herbicide May Be Most Important Factor in Development of Chronic Disease.”
More recently, Seneff and her research partner, Anthony Samsel, a research scientist and environmental and public health consultant, have found a significant amount of circumstantial evidence suggesting the chemical takes the place of glycine (an amino acid) in proteins, thereby impairing trypsin’s function, which is to digest proteins.
This increases the proteins’ allergenic potential. Glyphosate also causes leaky gut, allowing undigested proteins access to your general blood circulation. The end result is autoimmune disease, as your immune cells go into overdrive. “We have an epidemic in all kinds of different autoimmune diseases and food allergies, and I think all of that traces back to glyphosate,” she says.
The “gly” in glyphosate actually stands for “glycine,” which is one of the most common and also the smallest amino acid. So, glyphosate is basically a glycine molecule with a side chain attached to the nitrogen atom, and even though it’s a modified glycine molecule, it’s still glycine.7 This is why it can replace the regular amino acid glycine in your system. Unfortunately, it’s now toxic. Seneff explains:
“Certain proteins have certain glycines that absolutely have to be glycine in order for them to work properly. A good example is myosin. Myosin in the muscles [allow for] muscle contraction. It's a really important protein in the muscles for movement. It has a glycine at position 699 in the amino acid sequence. If you change that glycine into alanine, which is to say you add one extra methyl group, it ruins the protein.
It only has 1 percent capacity to contract. It loses 99 percent of its capacity to contract. Really amazing. So, if you put glyphosate instead of glycine, you're going to have at least as bad an effect as you would with alanine, and probably worse. It will cripple the protein and maybe that's how you get chronic fatigue syndrome.”
Collagen also contains large amounts of glycine, and we have an epidemic of joint pain, back pain, knee and hip pain. These too may well be the result of glyphosate exposure. Glyphosate also impairs health by causing imbalance in your gut microbiome, and by weakening your immune system. Seneff explains:
“The neutrophils are unable to do their job and then the tryptophan gets squirreled away inside the macrophages as kynurenine, [which] then gets taken over to the brain, causing all kinds of trouble in the brain. So, there's this whole complicated thing that's going on between the brain and the gut — the gut-brain axis communication system — with the microbes being messed up by the glyphosate, the gut being leaky, and the leaky gut barrier introducing a leaky brain barrier.
So, the barriers are all leaky. The placental barrier is leaky too, so the placenta gets in trouble during pregnancy. All this stuff that's happening because of glyphosate. It’s such a cascade.”
Glyphosate also depletes food of tryptophan by impairing the shikimate pathway in the plant. As a result, food is becoming increasingly tryptophan depleted, leading to widespread deficiency. Eventually, you can get into a situation where the tryptophan gets totally depleted, and when your liver doesn't get enough, it cannot make enough N-arachidonoyl dopamine (NADA) — one of the most important signaling molecules in your body — because NADA depends on tryptophan.
Downstream, you may also end up with serotonin and melatonin deficiency in the brain, which can lead to sleep disorders, depression and violent or suicidal behavior. Aside from tryptophan, disruption of the shikimate pathway also decreases all of the other aromatic amino acids, including tyrosine and phenylalanine, along with all of their derivatives, which include dopamine and melanin and folate.
As mentioned, statin drugs deplete your body of a number of important nutrients. For this reason, Graveline recommends taking the following supplements if you’re on a statin drug:
Ubiquinol, the reduced version of CoQ10.
Folate. Avoid folic acid, the synthetic version of folate, as it is oxidized and will use up a lot of antioxidant capacity in your liver to turn it into folate. Moreover, if you have been exposed to glyphosate, your body’s ability to do this will be impaired. A good supplement form is 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF).
Vitamin C. Your best bet here is to simply eat vitamin C-rich foods, and only take a vitamin C supplement if you’re feeling ill. The liposomal version of vitamin C is very effective. I typically recommend taking it every hour until you feel better. Liposomal vitamin C may also help abort an allergic reaction when taken in high amounts.
Selenium. Statins wreak havoc with selenoproteins, so a selenium supplement is advisable. In fact, most people need to take supplemental selenium.
Lecithin. I'm not a big fan of lecithin and I would suggest simply eating one whole organic, pastured egg per day instead. Lecithin is phosphatidylcholine, which eggs contain plenty of. If opting for a supplement, I recommend using a liposomal form. Also make sure it’s not made from genetically engineered soy. A safer alternative is organic sunflower lecithin.
Animal-based omega-3 fats. Ideal sources include small fatty fish such as sardines and anchovies and salmon roe. Ideally, check your omega-3 index to make sure you’re in a healthy range.
D-Ribose, as statins interfere with D-Ribose processing.
Magnesium. Most people are deficient in magnesium, but if you’re on a statin, you may be at even greater risk. Having low magnesium also raises your risk of suffering adverse effects from EMF, as magnesium is a natural calcium channel blocker. When you take high enough doses of magnesium, you actually lower your risk for developing damage from EMFs.
Alpha lipoic acid. This is a sulfur-containing molecule which may be part of its benefit.
Vitamin K2. Statins block the K2 pathway and impair vitamin K2 absorption, and K2 is important for the prevention of arterial calcification, as it helps shuttle calcium out of soft tissues into your teeth and bones, where it belongs.
Pyrroloquinoline quinone, more commonly known as PQQ. Similar to CoQ10, PQQ helps improve mitochondrial function.
That statins have proliferated the way they have is a testimony to the power of marketing, corruption and corporate greed, because the odds are very high — greater than 100 to 1 — that if you're taking a statin, you don't really need it. The only subgroup of people I believe might benefit from it are those born with a genetic defect called familial hypercholesterolemia, as this makes them resistant to traditional measures of normalizing cholesterol.
Even more importantly, cholesterol is not the cause of heart disease. Heart disease is largely caused by inflammation, as several experts have explained in detail, including Dr. Ron Rosedale, Dr. Uffe Ravnskov, Dr. Stephen Sinatra and Stephanie Seneff. Increased cholesterol is your body’s natural response to inflammation. It is wrongly blamed because it’s found at the “scene of the crime,” but it’s not the criminal.
If your physician is urging you to check your total cholesterol, then you should know that this test will tell you virtually nothing about your risk of heart disease unless it is 330 or higher. HDL percentage is a far more potent indicator for heart disease risk. Here are the two ratios you should pay attention to:
Remember, your body needs cholesterol. It is important in the production of cell membranes, hormones, vitamin D and bile acids that help you to digest fat. Cholesterol also helps your brain form memories and is vital to your neurological function. There is also strong evidence that having too little cholesterol actually increases your risk for cancer, memory loss, Parkinson's disease, hormonal imbalances, stroke, depression, suicide and violent behavior.
So, please, think long and hard before filling a prescription for a statin drug, and begin by implementing healthy lifestyle strategies instead. You can find a long list of articles detailing heart healthy strategies here.