Ask Larry:

Your Question: My cardiologist made a case for Lipitor I have not heard before. His point is that statins, by reducing cholesterol levels, strengthen the plaque wall or structure in some way and reduce the chance of plaque rupture, which is the real danger. He said that examination of plaque from people with lowered cholesterol is much tougher than that of people with high cholesterol.

By the way, my cholesterol last test was 275. I told him that in the past I’ve gotten my cholesterol down to 150 (from 250) through weight loss, exercise, and niacin and supplements. He said the target should be 100 and I can’t do that with “natural” means.

Any comments or info on this, particularly the tough plaque theory?

Larry’s Response: I have never come across that kind of explanation.

The relationship between cholesterol and plaque is not a cause-and-effect one. Both exist independent of the other. When the body determines it needs something to make a repair (usually in a blood vessel) it can use materials that are made from cholesterol. If there isn’t enough cholesterol readily available, the body does what it always does, it makes its own cholesterol. Whether cholesterol is high or low the repair work will proceed as usual.

Low cholesterol, however, can have a serious negative impact on all hormones.

Being the initiator of the hormone system, cholesterol is converted to pregnenolone, which becomes progesterone, which is the seed hormone for all sex hormones. In addition, the cholesterol base is vital for the formation of vitamin D (not really as a vitamin, but a seco-steroid). When needed, the body calls on these hormones (and cholesterol) to make and use the hormones we need; insulin, cortisol, and so on.

Reducing the levels of cholesterol with drugs seems irrational to me.

Studies have demonstrated that half the people who have heart attacks have elevated cholesterol. The other half is low. There is not a statistical causative relationship between levels of cholesterol and heart attacks. However, BOTH elevated cholesterol and heart disease are likely caused by the same thing, systemic inflammation. Inflammation is directly associated with diabetes (type 2) and, now, Alzheimer’s.

The environment and food supply is loaded with inflammatory chemicals. The worst are wheat, sugars (high fructose corn syrup is one), artificial sweeteners, and numerous drugs and chemicals that pollute our drinking water.

As I alluded above, cholesterol levels JUST ARE (of course, it’s far more complex than that) – and they rise and fall based on need and inflammation. Drugs artificially lower cholesterol. If a person eats well, exercises, and drinks clean water he will not experience inflammation. All health concerns can be set aside when the inflammation is controlled. However, I will admit that most people (doctors too) prefer the most popular approach; drugs.

Simply, I don’t buy the plaque theory. First, it isn’t logical. Second, it is just someone’s THEORY. All theories are ideas that have not yet been proven wrong. I haven’t proved it wrong, but I think my brief analysis injects enough questions for me to reject it for now.