You don't need to be in alternative medicine to know that statin drugs are a bad idea.

These days, even the doctors who once gave them out to nearly everyone are waking up to the fact that cholesterol drugs do plenty of harm and very little good.

And now, "mainstream" doctors are turning to what was once dismissed as "alternative" medicine to bring cholesterol levels down -- including the simple lifestyle changes that I've been advocating from the beginning.

It's not exactly a radical idea, but I'm glad to see the rest of the country catching on -- and some are even bragging about their results in places such as the Journal of the American Medical Association.

One recent series of editorials there was a debate between two competing mainstream teams trying to treat a hypothetical 55-year-old patient with high cholesterol levels who was otherwise healthy.

A decade ago, I'm sure they all would have said "statins."

Today, a set of doctors who said they'd use that approach were practically booed right out of the journal -- with one team of doctors correctly pointing out that they'd have to treat 100 patients like that hypothetical man for five years to prevent even a single heart attack.

And if that's all that happened -- a heart attack was prevented -- maybe it would be worthwhile.

But, as Dr. Rita Redberg and Dr. William Katz of the University of San Francisco, California wrote in the journal, at least one of those 100 patients will end up with diabetes because of those meds and a whopping 20 percent will experience the notorious statin side effects (and other studies like the Jupiter trial have shown risk closer to 25 percent).

Those include serious and debilitating muscle pain, fatigue, memory problems, cataracts, and even sexual dysfunction.

Now, I don't know if this means these mainstream docs have gone alternative or if I'm suddenly mainstream. To be honest, it doesn't matter to me -- all that matters is that patients are finally getting the common-sense approach to cholesterol control they should have been given all along.

Better late than never.

For the most advanced cardiovascular testing contact the Stengler Center for Integrative Medicine at 760-274-2377.