For decades, it has been the conventional wisdom that we should lower LDL cholesterol, also called bad cholesterol, in order to prevent heart disease and death from heart disease.
And the main method for lowering LDL is using statin drugs.
But an increasing number of scientific studies have questioned this advice in recent years.
A new study, published in the journal BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine, finally puts this issue to rest once and for all—and the results are shocking.
A research team from the University of New Mexico, the Bahiana School of Medicine, and the University of Grenoble noted that millions of people worldwide were now routinely placed on cholesterol-reduction drugs like statins.
They wondered whether new scientific research still supported this approach and decided to review the available scientific literature to find out.
They identified 35 high-quality clinical trials that variously compared people on one of three cholesterol drugs (statins, PCSK9, and ezetimibe) with people who were receiving a placebo (fake drug) or care without drugs. Trials were included only if their subjects were placed on treatments for approximately one year or more.
The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology have set cholesterol-reduction targets for specific groups of people and these researchers divided the trials they surveyed into those who met these AHA/ACC targets and those who did not.
The AHA/ACC guidelines divide all people into two categories, mostly with reference to their LDL cholesterol scores: those at moderate risk and those at high risk of cardiovascular events and death. The former group should reduce their LDL cholesterol by 30 percent while the latter group should try to reduce it by more than 50 percent.
Of the 13 studies that met the target, only one showed that death could be prevented by reducing cholesterol, and only five reported a decline in cardiovascular events like strokes and heart attacks.
Of the 22 studies that failed to meet the AHA/ACC target, only four showed that death could be prevented by reducing cholesterol and only 14 reported a decline in cardiovascular events.
This means that more than 75 percent of all studies reported no reduction in risk of death and almost 50 percent reported no reduction in cardiovascular events from the use of cholesterol-lowering drugs.
As a result, organizations that set cholesterol-lowering targets with reference to your supposed cardiovascular risk factors basically treat many low-risk people with cholesterol-lowering drugs and leave many high-risk people untreated.
This seems to suggest that lowering LDL cholesterol is not a proper way to prevent cardiovascular events and death, even though LDL cholesterol does seem to be involved in the progression of cardiovascular disease.
The authors of this study lament that, notwithstanding the existence of these contradictory research results, medical specialists seem strangely resistant to changing their current theories/practices, unlike in other sciences where theories are changed when such contradictory results emerge.