August 19, 2004 (Ira Pilgrim)
Instead of preventing cardiovascular disease the new guidelines may increase the mortality of other diseases, transform healthy individuals into unhappy hypochondriacs obsessed with the chemical composition of their food and their blood, reduce the income of producers of animal fat, undermine the art of cuisine, destroy the joy of eating, and divert health care money from the sick and the poor to the rich and the healthy. The only winners are the drug and imitation food industry and the researchers that they support.
Uffe Ravnskov M.D., Ph.D.
Sickle cell anemia is a disease that almost exclusively affects children of tropical African decent. It is caused by a recessive gene, which means that each parent has to contribute a gene to produce the disease in their child. The disease used to be fatal, with most children with the condition not surviving to their tenth birthday, but it is now treatable. A person who has only one sickling gene has what is called "sickling trait," which is easily detectable in the laboratory by simply taking a drop of blood and examining it under the microscope after it has remained on a slide for a while. People with sickling trait are not ill. Some 60 years ago J.B.S. Haldane postulated that a certain similar anemia existed because the single gene for these anemias conferred a resistance to malaria. That hypothesis was tested on volunteers and, sure enough, a person with sickling trait was resistant to malaria. If two people with the sickling trait married, half of their children would have sickling trait and would be resistant to malaria. A quarter of their offspring would be normal and would probably die of malaria if they lived in tropical Africa. Another quarter would have sickle cell anemia and, in those days, would also die. It is now an axiom in human genetics that when you find a population with a high level of a hereditary disease, that you start looking for some beneficial effect of that gene. No matter how terrible a disease is caused by that gene, look for a benefit somewhere.
There is a genetic disorder called "familial hypercholesterolemia." A male with this gene has a very high probability of having his first heart attack in his forties or fifties. It is the most common genetically determined "disease." One in 500 people carry the gene and among men who have had a heart attack, one in 20 will have the gene. There is usually a family history of this condition. These men have high levels of total cholesterol(which includes HDL and LDL), high LDL and low HDL.
Why would this gene persist in the population? One possibility might be that there is a benefit conferred to men who have this gene. Uffe Ravnskov has reviewed the evidence that high cholesterol is associated with resistance to infection. People with high cholesterol are not as likely to die of infection (http://qjmed.oupjournals.org/cgi/content/full/96/12/927?ijkey=172mwKXqzgmtE&keytype=ref).
It is now customary to refer to cholesterol that is bound to low-density lipoproteins(LDL) as "bad cholesterol" and cholesterol that is bound to high-density lipoproteins(HDL) as "good cholesterol." The dogma that goes with this is that if you have a large amount of bad cholesterol that you are at high risk of heart and blood vessel problems. If you have a large amount of HDL, you are at lower risk. Unfortunately calling something good or bad doesn't tell you much with regard to people or the chemistry of their blood. Reality is rarely a simple matter of good or bad unless you have the mind of a child.
I have high blood cholesterol and the laboratory report of the analysis of my blood states that I am at high risk of heart attack. However, at 80 years of age, I have had no heart attack and my blood pressure is normal. There is a family with a gene for high cholesterol and the carriers of that gene do not have heart or blood vessel problems. Could I have one of those gene? Now Uffe Ravnskov has reviewed the evidence that there are genes for high cholesterol that not only don't put a person at increased risk of early death, but have a clearly beneficial affect. That beneficial effect is that it confers resistance to bacterial and viral diseases. I may be carrying such a gene which, along with a lot of dumb luck, has helped me to survive for 80 years.
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