December 8, 2000 (Ira Pilgrim)

The Cholesterol Myths

Dr. Ravnskov has done a magnificent service with a scholarly book that gathers a vast body of impressive evidence and will surprise many with the true facts from research studies. The book is a must reading for all interested persons and certainly should be required reading and all physicians who treat patients.

Ray H. Rosenman, MD

I am 75 years old and have had a high blood cholesterol level for at least the past 25 years. A normal cholesterol is considered to be under 200 mg/dl and mine ranges from 250 to 316. My LDL (the so-called bad cholesterol) is high and my HDL (the so-called good cholesterol) is low. While I have had health problems, they do not include heart or blood vessel disease. My blood pressure is about 130/80 which is pretty good for an old man. Yet, according to what I have read, I am at high risk for heart and blood vessel disease. A number of years ago I decided to look into it.

I plugged the word "cholesterol" into Yahoo, and one site that I came up with was a web site by Uffe Ravnskov called The Cholesterol Myths. It said that what I had been hearing and reading about high cholesterol being bad for you was hokum. He made a good case for the thesis that if you exclude those people who have the gene for high cholesterol and early death, that cholesterol levels are meaningless. Also, that cholesterol level is not appreciably influenced by diet. That was not enough for me; I wanted the documentation, so I started a correspondence with him. One consequence was that, several years ago, he e-mailed me a copy of the English version of his book The Cholesterol Myths which had been published in Swedish and Finnish. That book, revised, expanded and fully documented, has just been published by New Trends Publishing as a $20 paperback.

Ravnskov is both a physician and researcher. His publications have been in first rate medical journals and he is highly respected by his peers, including me. His book is extremely well researched and is well documented. It is clearly written; much more clearly than many publications that I have read by people whose native language is English.

Medical history is replete with fads that have dominated medical practice and the public's attention. In the seventeen hundreds bleeding was the treatment for everything. It never helped anyone and probably sent many people to a premature death, including George Washington. Many volumes have been written about medical fads of the past. Fads are hardly a thing of the past. In recent memory, one fad was demonizing salt, based on the fact that some people who have high blood pressure(not all people) will have their blood pressure reduced considerably by a salt-free diet. One manufacturer took salt out of infant formula with sometimes fatal results. However, nothing in my memory can match the hype given to cholesterol, with the possible exception of the mammography campaign. The amount of anguish produced in people who found that they had high blood levels of cholesterol is not measurable, but it is considerable. It dwarfs the various diet fads of the past and present. For many people eating was converted from one of life's most pleasurable activities to a chore. This book should relegate much of the cholesterol stuff that we have been hearing and reading to the trash heap.

I will not attempt to summarized the book, but if you want a brief version you can ask Yahoo for The Cholesterol Myths and then, if you want more information, read the book.

As Ravnskov states in the epilog of his book, "If you want to know something you must look at all the premises yourself, listen to all the arguments yourself, and then decide for yourself what seems to be the most likely answer. You may be easily led astray if you ask the authorities to do this work for you."

Next column

Return to the Medicine Home Page

Return to Ira's Home Page