Cholesterol control without drugs

Let me start this morning with two very important -- but often overlooked -- facts about cholesterol and the new cholesterol drug:

1. By itself, cholesterol is not unhealthy. It's necessary -- and mainstream cholesterol targets are set far too low for good health.

2. When cholesterol levels are truly high, treatment must focus not simply on lowering those levels, but on reducing the risk of heart problems.

Those two reasons are why I'm doubly concerned by the FDA's approval of Liptruzet, a new cholesterol drug that combines two older cholesterol meds -- a generic version of the statin Lipitor and Zetia, a non-statin cholesterol drug.

First, Liptruzet does appear to bring cholesterol levels down further than either med can on its own. But that's not necessarily a good thing, since low cholesterol can increase the risk of everything from infection to cancer.

And second, the new cholesterol drug appears to lower cholesterol levels without further reducing any of the risks linked to high cholesterol. It's not proven to reduce the risk of heart disease or heart attack, and it's not proven to reduce the risk of stroke.

So clearly, this "double" drug doesn't offer double protection -- but it could pack double the risk, since there's evidence that Zetia combined with a statin could actually increase the risk of damage to vital organs such as the liver.

Zetia on its own may also lead to a number of problems, including pancreatitis, while Lipitor is linked to diabetes, muscle pain, and liver and kidney problems.

But for many people, the worst side effect of statins such as Lipitor and maybe even the new cholesterol drug is brain fog -- the memory loss and even cognitive decline that often accompanies the drugs.

One new study even shows just how these drugs may damage essential brain neurons, causing them to swell and exhibit what the researchers call a "beads on a string" effect.

It's not just a visual display. This swelling can disrupt the function of the neurons themselves. The researchers compare it to a traffic jam right in the brain -- and of the more than 1,000 drugs tested on fruit fly neurons, only four had this specific effect.

All four were statins, of course, and one of them was Lipitor -- which is why even when you do need to lower your cholesterol levels, these drugs are the wrong way to get it done.

There are safe and natural approaches that can lower LDL without causing other risks and without causing your levels to fall too far, starting with a well-studied diet.

One recent study finds a diet I've been writing to you about quite a bit, the Mediterranean diet, can bring LDL cholesterol levels down by 9 percent, even in cases where the diet itself doesn't lead to weight loss.

More importantly, I've found that this diet reduces oxidized LDL -- the damaging form of this cholesterol.

Of course, if you truly stick to a Mediterranean diet, you're almost guaranteed to lose some weight. And along with normalizing your cholesterol levels, you'll reduce your risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke all at once.

There's no drug that can make all those claims at once. But this diet can, and you can learn more about it right here.

PS: When it comes to cholesterol health, your actual levels are just a small part of the picture. LDL oxidation and particle size are actually more important than the level itself.

Health Revelations readers got the full story on statins and natural cholesterol control last year in the May and June editions. If you're a subscriber, you can use the password in your current issue to read it online right now.

Not a subscriber? Then it's time to take the mystery out of your own cholesterol numbers once and for all. Sign up today, and you'll get complete access to all my back issues online and all my future issues delivered right to your mailbox.