The study was published in the journal Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes and Obesity.
According to American Heart Association estimates from 2020, almost 40 million Americans regularly take statins to lower their cholesterol levels and lessen their risk of heart disease and stroke. However, according to recent research by David Diamond, a neuroscientist and expert in cardiovascular disease at the University of South Florida’s Department of Psychology, many of them are unlikely to benefit from these medications.
A statin or a placebo was given to patients in medical studies, and Diamond and his co-authors analysed the relevant literature. The review was then focused on trial participants who had high levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL), also known as “bad cholesterol,” which can be decreased with a statin. High triglyceride (blood fat) and low high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or the “good cholesterol,” were present in some people with high LDL, which increased their chance of suffering a heart attack. Others with high LDL, however, were quite distinct. They were healthier since they had high HDL and low triglycerides. Healthy triglyceride and HDL levels are associated with regular exercise, low blood pressure, low blood sugar, and a low risk of heart attack.
Two questions were posed by Diamond and his co-authors: Does having high LDL increase a person’s risk of having a heart attack if their triglycerides and HDL levels are ideal but their risk of having a heart attack is low? Would these people gain anything from taking a statin to lower their LDL?
They found that LDL alone has “a very weak connection” with heart disease and stroke, according to their research. Their analysis went even farther, demonstrating that there was no advantage from giving statins to individuals with high LDL and optimum triglycerides and HDL.
Diamond contextualised the findings in terms of diet and way of life.
“People who are not overweight, have low blood sugar, exercise and are on a low-carb diet typically have optimal triglycerides and HDL, and sometimes they have high LDL. Our findings show that the people who have this healthy combination of diet and lifestyle, as well as high LDL, showed no benefit from taking a statin.“
The review, according to the authors, also refutes the conventional wisdom that low-carb diets, which are frequently heavy in saturated (animal) fat, cause heart disease. That argument has been around for close to 50 years, since since cardiologist Robert Atkins was questioned in 1973 before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Nutrition and Human Needs about the potential risks of his high-fat Atkins diet.
Diamond is aware that his research has generated substantial support as well as criticism from some members of the medical profession who disagree with his opinions on LDL and statins. He advises that it should not be regarded as medical advice because its goal is to increase awareness.
“High blood pressure, obesity, smoking and high blood sugar are the primary drivers of heart disease,” Diamond said. “Cholesterol is an innocent bystander, and saturated fat in the diet has been undeservedly demonized.”
LDL cholesterol and the danger of heart disease and stroke are two topics that personally fascinate Diamond. He was overweight when he received the potentially fatal diagnosis of high triglycerides and low HDL about 25 years ago. His physician advised him to take a statin to lower his LDL cholesterol because he was at a high likelihood of developing heart disease. Diamond started researching food and heart disease instead of taking the medication.
According to Diamond, those with diabetes and excess body fat may benefit from taking a statin since, in addition to lowering LDL, the medications also stop excessive clotting and inflammation, which are two known risk factors for heart disease. But it does have its side effects.