alternatives to statins

  1. New rules double use of cholesterol meds

    They say there are two things you never want to see being made: laws, and sausages.

    Let's add a third one to that list: medical guidelines. Especially for widely used drugs like cholesterol meds.

    The rules, regulations and procedures your doctor is expected to follow -- the guidelines he's supposed to use when making critical decisions about your health -- are the product of a badly flawed system heavily stacked in favor of the drug industry.

    And if you want more proof of that, take a closer look at the new statin guidelines.

    These are the new rules that are supposed to double the use of cholesterol meds, putting millions of people with normal cholesterol levels onto the drugs.

    But these new rules weren't created by unbiased and impartial scientists. No, these industry-friendly guidelines were created by... well... friends of the industry.

    And the conflicts start at the top.

    The chair of the 15-member panel had financial ties to six different makers of cholesterol meds. He says he cut those ties when he was named chair, as if Big Pharma conflicts are a switch you can flick on and off at will.

    It doesn't work like that -- and he's not the only one with major conflicts.

    Two of the panel's key co-chairs also had financial conflicts. And if that's not enough, the entire panel was stacked in favor of the drug industry, with 8 of the 15 members reporting financial ties to Big Pharma, according to BMJ.

    Yes -- the exact number needed to form a majority. Coincidence? I'll let you decide, but I think the proof is in the pudding: The guidelines are expected to double the number of statin users to 72 million Americans, or 60 percent of the entire population over 45.

    If these massive conflicts were the only problem with the new guidelines, it would be enough to ignore them completely. Unfortunately, it's not the only problem.

    The new guidelines are based on calculating a patient's 10-year risk of a heart attack. If that risk hits 7.5 percent or higher, doctors are supposed to put the patient on statins.

    They've even been given a tool to figure it all out, an online "risk calculator."

    That makes it sound like a scientific instrument, right? The word "calculator" suggests nothing but cold, hard, objective numbers. But in this case, the numbers don't add up -- because Harvard University researchers have found that the calculator wildly overestimates heart risk.

    On average, the calculator will overshoot your heart risk by between 75 percent and 150 percent. That means millions of people who shouldn't get the cholesterol meds even based on the expansive new guidelines could be put on them anyway.

    There's already talk of adjusting the calculator, but don't waste your time waiting for those tweaks. There are better, safer and more reliable ways to protect your heart whether your risk is low, high or somewhere in between -- and you don't have to go near a statin to get this protection.

    Start with the heart-friendly nutrients I recommend to my own patients: L-Carnitine, omega-3 fatty acids and magnesium. Then work with your own naturopathic doctor to tailor an approach that's right for you.

  2. Apples can slash LDL cholesterol

    Thirty days to better cholesterol

    You don't need to swallow a single pill to lower your cholesterol levels -- but you might have to watch for seeds.

    Apples are nature's own cure for high cholesterol, with new research showing that eating one every day can cut LDL levels by up to 40 percent in a single month.

    In other words... an apple a day really might keep the doctor away, not to mention the cardiologist and even the pharmacist.

    But wait, because this gets sweeter. Ever hear of someone suffering from serious muscle pain after biting into an apple? Know anyone who suffers from apple-induced kidney or liver damage?

    Me neither -- but those are some of the real risks of cholesterol drugs. Apples, on the other hand, come with virtually no risks at all. And while statins can cause diabetes, people who eat apples actually have a lower risk of the disease.

    Just make sure you don't take any shortcuts here and stick to real, fresh apples. In the new study, one set of patients was given the polyphenols found in apples, but in supplement form -- and while they also saw a dip in LDL levels, it was nothing like the 40 percent plunge enjoyed by the apple-eaters.

    It's not the first time apples have been shown to lower cholesterol levels -- there's a whole orchard of research on this, including a recent study that found that a daily serving of dried apples cut LDL levels by 24 percent over six months.

    The only caution here is that conventional apples contain more pesticides than just about anything else in the produce aisle, even after they've been washed and peeled. As a result, they've topped the Environmental Working Group's list of "Dirty Dozen" fruits and vegetables for two years running now.

    I know organics cost more... but here's a case where you can see what that extra money buys you, and I say it's worth every penny.

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