Cardiologist Called New Cholesterol Guidelines a Disgrace and Benefit for Big Pharma
By Heather Callaghan, Editor
“We have a saying in medicine. If you torture the data long enough, it will confess to anything.” – Cardiologist Dr. Barbara Roberts on cholesterol guidelines.
It seems like every time the mainstream media reports some new changes to health guidelines, another recruit of people is suddenly considered in the unhealthy class.
Nowhere is this pattern seen more prominently than in the heart health industry. After all, cardiovascular disease is the number one killer in the United States, having killed 597,000 Americans in 2011.
A Few Notable Examples of Changing Health Guidelines:
In 1998, around 29 million Americans became overweight overnight without gaining a single pound, thanks to new body mass index (BMI) standards by the NIH. Many were suddenly considered obese, including most athletes.
In 2013, the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology published new cholesterol guidelines that increased the number of people who could be offered statin drugs by the tens of millions. A study came out that same year challenging these new calculators.
In early 2018, the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology again tinkered with guidelines, and lowered what constitutes hypertension (high blood pressure). Now, readings above 130/80 are categorized as high blood pressure, meaning many people are now considered hypertensive.
So, as you can see, the AHA is mainly responsible for some of these major changes. We’d like to circle back to the 2013 change – the one that determined many Americans were now at risk with their cholesterol and should be placed on statins.
Cardiologist Dr. Barbara Roberts had plenty to say about this change and even authored a book called The Truth about Statins: Risks and Alternatives to Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs. She is director of the Women’s Cardiac Center at The Miriam Hospital and associate clinical professor of Medicine at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University.
Convergence R.I. reported that the doctor was angry and had to speak out about this change:
She does not mince her words when it comes to the new cholesterol guidelines recently published by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology – which have suggested that millions of healthy Americans should start taking statins.
“The new guidelines are based on shoddy science and misinterpretation of the data,” she told ConvergenceRI in a recent interview. “This is a gift to Big Pharma. The American Heart Association has become little more than a propaganda arm of Big Pharma and Big Food. It’s a disgrace.”
Expanding the number of healthy people who take statins by the tens of millions, Roberts continued, “is going to reap a holocaust of adverse effects.”
Holocaust? Isn’t that too strong a word to use?
“No,” countered Roberts.
I will stand by that. For example, we may see upward of more than a quarter-million new cases of diabetes as a result. At a minimum, about 10 percent of new users of statins will suffer serious muscle side effects.
We will see increased instances of cognitive dysfunction, nerve damage, liver damage and an increased risk of kidney injury.
Nobody’s life is going to be extended; nobody’s life is going to be saved [by having healthy people taking statins].
To make matters worse, she said most doctors would not even read the entire 85-page guideline and that it was up to people to become informed patients because most people believe statins are innocuous. An op-ed in The New York Times, written by John D. Abramson, a Harvard Medical School lecturer, and Dr. Rita F. Redberg, a cardiologist at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center and the editor of JAMA Internal Medicine actually echoed her concerns. In the end, though, many doctors are going to offer statins based on the 2013 guideline changes.
“Statins are effective for people with known heart disease. But for people who have less than a 20 percent risk of getting heart disease in the next 10 years, statins not only fail to reduce the risk of death, but also fail even to reduce the risk of serious illness,” Abramson and Redberg wrote. –“140 people in this risk group would need to be treated with statins in order to prevent a single heart attack or stroke, without any overall reduction in death or serious illness.”
What Can I Do?
Roberts dismisses statins as a preventative and instead offers this prescription for health:
The Mediterranean Diet!
Along with an active lifestyle, a Mediterranean diet with monounsaturated fats like those in coconut and olive oil and one low in red meat is the way to go.
“Adhering to the plant-based Mediterranean diet will lower your risk of heart disease just as much as any use of statins – without any side effects,” she said.
On a social level, Roberts demands these changes:
We need to stop subsidizing the production of corn and soy, which are the ingredients in many of the unhealthy foods that are foisted on people. We need to try to limit the advertising to children of unhealthy food products such as Cocoa Puffs. We need to raise cigarette taxes even more. And we need to stop eliminating physical education classes.
She wishes doctors hadn’t “swallowed the Kool-Aid.” “I would be happy to talk with them and give them my perspective, that the use of statins is not supported by the medical literature,” she added. “…we really don’t know the truth about statins. The reason I say that is because we know that a lot of studies that are undertaken never get published.” (29% of studies to be exact.)
“Industry-sponsored clinical trials are four times more likely to report positive results than non-industry sponsored clinical trials. There could be a lot of studies that showed statins were not efficacious that we don’t know about because they have never been published.” she said.
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