With courage and care Dr. Ravnskov exposes the lack of experimental evidence for the diet-heart theory, which claims that eating less fat and cholesterol will prevent atheroslcerosis (hardening of the arteries) and myocardial infarctions (heart attacks). By examining original peer-reviewed literature, the author finds no support for the diet-heart theory. He gives examples of scientific fraud among efforts to support the theory, including the deliberate selective omission of data points, and the deliberate assignment of subjects in a clinical trial to treatment or to control groups by physicians with the subject's medical records in hand. He shows how the abstract or conclusions of a number of papers are at odds with the actual data in the papers. He demonstrates how the use of one statistical method in preference to another can give a false impression that there is an effect,where there is, in fact, none. He shows how the reporting of differences in fatality rates by per cent reduction (say, a 50% reduction in relative risk) is actually misleading when the actual death rates are quite small in both the treatment and control groups of subjects in diet or drug studies. For example, a treatment that changes the absolute survival rate over a multi-year period from 99.0% to 99.5% represents a 50% reduction in relative risk, from 1% to 0.5% absolute. This is often described in papers as a 50% reduction in death rate. However, when the difference is barely significant statistically, as was often the case, Ravnskov points out that there is no real reason to recommend adoption of the treatment, especially if there are serious side-effects.
“The truth, were it known, would send pharmaceutical stocks plunging. In most studies, the increased risk is present only above a level of cholesterol that includes just a small percentage of the total population. [These are the approximately 1% of people with a genetic defect called familial hypercholesteremia.] And women can stop worrying immediately because high cholesterol is not a risk factor for the female sex. Few comments have been made on this peculiar fact in all the vast literature on cholesterol. When it is mentioned at all, it is said that female sex hormones protect against heart attacks."
“In fact, it seems more dangerous for women to have low cholesterol than high. Dr. Bernard Forette and a team of French researchers from Paris found that old women with very high cholesterol live the longest. The death rate was more than 5 times higher for women who had very low cholesterol. In their report, the French doctors warned against cholesterol lowering in elderly women. But they could as well have warned against cholesterol lowering in any woman, or, to be more precise, in anyone at all."
Dr. Ravnskov went on to show that higher levels of high-density-lipoprotein (HDL, "good" cholesterol) are not protective against CHD, and that lower levels of low-density-lipoprotein (LDL,"bad" cholesterol) are not beneficial, although the expected associations of each with CHD are present. Here again, conclusions at odds with the researchersí own data were presented. Intimations that there are “many” or “definitive” studies in reports and papers were shown to be false by showing that citations often led to other reviews, each trusting the last, and ending at very few original studies.
“High-fat foods raise blood cholesterol." Dr. Ancel Keys was one of the main proponents of this myth. In a paper published in 1958, Keys showed a graph of the per cent calories from fat in the food of various countries vs. the mean serum cholesterol levels. The data points fell on a straight line, showing an excellent correlation. Dr. Ravnskov added data points from a number of countries deliberately ignored by Dr. Keys. These fall nowhere near the line. Furthermore, CHD death rates among subjects in Finland, Greece and Yugoslavia with similar serum cholesterol levels varied 5-fold depending on which area of the country they lived in!
Four studies in the US, one in the UK, one in Israel and one in Finland failed to show any correlation between diet and serum cholesterol levels.
“Numerous studies have shown that in people who eat a normal Western diet, the effect on blood cholesterol of eating 2 or 3 extra eggs per day over a long period of time can hardly be measured..."
Ravnskov presents the results of a number of trials of statin drugs in which total death rates are slightly lower than those of the controls. In an early trial of lovastatin (EXCEL) on 8,000 subjects the absolute death rate from all causes after just 1 year was 0.5% vs. 0.2% in the placebo group.
Kilmer S. McCully, Ph. D., M. D., in technical papers and a book: “The Heart Revolution: the Extraordinary Discovery that Finally Laid the Cholesterol Myth to Rest”, Harper Perennial, 2000, wrote: “But no study anywhere has ever proven that lowering the amount of cholesterol in the diet reduces the risk of heart disease. And lowering cholesterol through drugs won’t prevent arteries from hardening if homocysteine is high.” McCully is the discoverer of the fact that the undesirable amino acid called homocysteine is an actual cause of atherosclerosis and CHD.
Based on Ravnskov’s meticulous analyses as well as the considerable support for his stance shown by others who have also studied the cholesterol data, this book is recommended without reservation. Physicians and other health professionals as well as anyone threatened with cholesterol-lowering treatments would be enlightened, and better able to resist worthless treatments. Health insurers might reconsider compensation for frequent (or any) clinical assays for cholesterol or triglycerides, let alone expensive treatments to lower cholesterol levels that reduce quality of life without prolonging it significantly.