A close look at how cholesterol guidelines are set in the first place and by whom certainly gives me pause.

In a recent expose on cholesterol it was noted that in 2004, the U.S. government’s National Cholesterol Education Program panel advised those at risk for heart disease to attempt to reduce their LDL cholesterol to very low levels ~ levels that can be reached in most cases only by using cholesterol-lowering drugs. But, in 2006 a review in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that there was insufficient evidence to support the target numbers outlined by the panel. The recommendations were adopted anyway.

Why? The simple answer lies in who comprised the panel of experts: 8 of 9 members had ties to the pharmaceutical industry. And by lowering the cholesterol numbers, more people are swept into the eligible pool for prescription medications.

Are there people who could benefit from cholesterol-lowering drugs? Perhaps, but the pool is very small. The total cholesterol number is just about worthless for predicting heart disease unless it exceeds 330 and even then, a close look at HDL levels is important.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Cholesterol Facts ~ Not Fears

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