For many years it has been known that high cholesterol becomes a minor risk factor with increasing age. As I pointed out long ago many studies have even shown, that people with high cholesterol live the longest. Supporters of the cholesterol campaign have explained this fact away by claiming that serious diseases, for instance cancer and infections, lower cholesterol. But as I have shown as well, it is just the opposite; low cholesterol predisposes to cancer and it also predisposes to infectious diseases.
Another misused explanation is, that those with high cholesterol have already died. But this is obviously wrong, because in Sweden for instance, more than 95% of those who die from a cardiovascular disease have passed the age of 60.
Yet another argument has been that as an analysis of cholesterol includes both the “good” HDL-cholesterol and the “bad” LDL-cholesterol, the explanation may be, they say, that elderly people with high cholesterol may have high HDL-cholesterol and low LDL-cholesterol.
Therefore I decided to investigate this question in more detail together with 16 experienced colleagues from various countries, who shared my skepticism against the cholesterol hypothesis. We searched the medical literature after all studies, where the authors had analysed LDL-cholesterol in elderly people representing the general population and followed them for several years. We identified 19 such studies including 30 cohorts (groups of people) with a total of 68 094 individuals age 60 or older.
We have now published our result in the medical journal BMJ Open What we found was that in 16 of the cohorts including 92 per cent of the total number of individuals, those with high LDL-C lived the longest; in the rest, no difference as regards longevity was found. Thus, we didn´t find any study having shown that high LDL-cholesterol is a risk factor for elderly people.
We are well aware that it is not easy to question Nobel Prize winners. As you probably know Joseph Goldstein and Michael Brown received the Prize in 1985, but not because they discovered that high cholesterol is the cause of atherosclerosis (which most people think), but because their discovery of the LDL-receptor, the cell door through which LDL-cholesterol enters the cell. But in spite of that, they still maintain, that LDL is “the essential causative agent”. Read for instance their paper published last year.
According to The Daily Mail, The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Times and more than one hundred other British and Irish newspapers our paper prompted (not unexpectedly) medical opponents to describe the results as “surprising”, that we have drawn “completely the wrong conclusion”, that our paper has “serious weaknesses” and is “disappointingly unbalanced”. One of the experts claimed that ”there is nothing in the current paper to support the authors’ suggestions” and ”evidence from large clinical trials demonstrates very clearly that lowering LDL cholesterol reduces our risk of death overall and from heart attacks and strokes, regardless of age.”
It is correct that statin treatment is able to prolong your life with a few days on average, as documented recently in BMJ Open by Danish researchers, but it is most likely due to their other effects, not by cholesterol lowering. If elderly people with high LDL-cholesterol live longer than people with low, how could its lowering be beneficial?
We are eagerly waiting to hear what we and BMJ Open´s reviewers have ignored.