“When diet and exercise aren’t enough” is almost always the opening line in statin (cholesterol lowering) drug commercials. They’ll finish off the sentence with “when diet and exercise aren’t enough, lipitor/crestor/other brand can help lower your bad cholesterol”. These commercials often start with a healthy looking man saying “I thought diet and exercise were enough” or “I wish I had listened to my doctor sooner”. In both cases, the drug company wants you to identify with the person in the commercial- they want that “wow, he’s just like me!” response.
I find the above statement really irritating for a number of reasons.
1. None of these people seem to remember that we need cholesterol for a multitude of bodily functions. Nearly all of your hormones are made from cholesterol, as well as bile (which you need to digest fats), the antioxidant CoQ10, and vitamin D. Cholesterol keeps your cell membranes fluid. Cholesterol isn’t bad- we need it.
2. By this point, many of you realize that I see things differently than most doctors. So many things that are labeled as disease are actually symptoms of something deeper. Like so much else that I see in my clinic, I often see high cholesterol as a symptom of something bigger. Hypothyroidism? Metabolic syndrome? Hormone deficiency? Adrenal fatigue? Statin drugs don’t do squat to fix those problems- they only suppress your body’s cry for help.
3. Statins aren’t very safe. Statin use (and low cholesterol levels) has been repeatedly linked with neurodegenerative diseases and diabetes, to name a few. It’s really not shocking once you see cholesterol in this new light, though. I mean, that high cholesterol is probably a cry for help. For example, if you have consistantly high blood sugar, your body can take that sugar, make it into acetyl-coa, and turn it into cholesterol. In this case, high cholesterol is actually saving you from the inflammation of high blood glucose. If you cut off that pathway your body has no avenue to get rid of sugar and badda bing, badda boom- diabetes.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the diet the American Heart Association recommends (one high in carbohydrate and low in fat and cholesterol) is the exact opposite of what you should do to bring down your cholesterol levels. The higher your blood sugar creeps from all those carbs the more your body will be forced to make more cholesterol. It should also be noted that this diet is generally pretty inflammatory. Cholesterol is not the enemy. Inflammation + Cholesterol is, however, a potential problem. Not only is the “heart healthy” diet not doing you any favors- I would bet that it’s doing much more harm than good.
So when the drug companies say “when diet and exercise aren’t enough”, I believe what they really meant to say is:
If you or somebody you know is interested in working with a functional medicine doctor please call my office at (919) 238-4094 and see if we are the right fit for you. Infinity Holistic Healthcare is located in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, part of the Raleigh-Durham “triangle” area.