Dr. Yin-Xiong Li warns your cholesterol can get too LOW
With every other commercial on your television screen these days pushing another prescription drug that is supposed to help you medicate your high-cholesterol problem to allegedly improve your health, I couldn't help but share this TheHeart.org article about an eye-opening new study showing just how dangerous it is to have cholesterol levels that are too low. Yep, you heard me right--TOO LOW!
Lead researcher Dr. Yin-Xiong Li, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Cell Biology at the Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, conducted a basic-science study on zebra fish embryos and cholesterol supplementation to prevent fetal alcohol defects that was published in the January 22, 2007 issue of Laboratory Investigation.
Dr. Li was able to extrapolate some important information that raises questions about cholesterol levels that may prove important in light of the current cholesterol-lowering madness that we are going through in 2007.
His question: Is there such a thing as too LOW cholesterol?
Just asking that question has no doubt gotten Dr. Li hate mail from every pill-pushing pharmaceutical company with a cholesterol drug on the market today. Whether it is Liptor, Crestor, Zetia, or any of the other medicines designed to artificially drop cholesterol levels, you can't avoid seeing or hearing about this suddenly trumped up issue of cholesterol. They have sounded the alarm on the supposed dangers of having high-cholesterol for so long that people are actually buying into it.
But Dr. Li says the presence of the right amount and kinds of cholesterol in the body is too important for people to unnecessarily reduce to an arbitrary number like the current recommendation to get it below 200. That's not necessarily a good idea for everyone because there are health risks for lowering cholesterol too much, Dr. Li added.
Interestingly, Dr. Li is very concerned about the overuse of statins by doctors these days. He admitted that they are indeed helping to reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke. But the fact is these drugs put people at a higher risk of death if they are taking one of these drugs and have a heart attack or stroke with low levels of cholesterol. EEEEK!
"If you cut the cholesterol too low, the risk is that when you have an [heart attack] or stroke, the event may be much worse and the death rate could be higher, because adult stem cells do not function well under extremely low levels of cholesterol," Dr. Li explained.
Many people are beginning to realize statin drugs are bad news for people who think they have a cholesterol problem when they really don't (these drugs are definitely about making money, not improving health). Especially if you are livin' la vida low-carb, cholesterol levels are not measured the same way as someone who is eating higher amounts of carbohydrates.
That explains why traditional cholesterol tests that measure LDL and total cholesterol alone as the indicators of heart health risks for people on a low-carb diet are virtually irrelevant. As we saw just last week in this study, HDL and triglycerides are a better marker for heart disease risk than the way we've been doing it our entire lives.
And Dr. Li knows this, but it's not just about heart health. There are other costs to our health associated with lowering cholesterol levels too much.
The existence of cholesterol helps the body produce stem cells to repair tissues and organs that have been damaged.
"If you cut the cholesterol too low, instead of stem cells you will get fibrous cells repairing organs, which in turn are replaced by scar tissue," Dr. Li stated.
According to Dr. Li, this is why death will occur more often in people with who have too low cholesterol because their blood vessels are much stiffer and will very likely break.
Additionally, the adverse mental side effects of low cholesterol levels can be quite traumatic (nevermind the fact that statins has been found to cause vivid and scary nightmares!).
"If your cholesterol is too low, you are likely to be extremely unhappy, with a higher likelihood of suicidal behavior," Dr. Li contended. "We also know that drugs against depression increase cholesterol."
His conclusion is that we need to have a balance between what is considered high-cholesterol and low-cholesterol to protect people from suffering a cardiovascular even, have proper levels of stem cells, and ward off depression.
But what is that number? Doctors put the overall cholesterol maximum at 200, but is this the right level for everyone across the board. Nothing irks me more than to see people who have total cholesterol of 210 being put on a statin drug just to push their number below the magic line that has been drawn by doctors.
One expert in the column said if LDL cholesterol goes below 50 mmol/L, then he would decide to "pull back a bit" on the level of statin drugs used. Another expert said he would let it get below 40 mmol/L before he would let it stop.
Are you kidding me? Why would you allow LDL to get down to that LOW a level when clearly there are health benefits to be gained from high LDL levels, especially for the elderly among us? If you are interested in learning more about cholesterol, including why higher levels of HDL and total cholesterol aren't the massive crisis they have been made out to be, then you really should read Anthony Colpo's bombshell book The Great Cholesterol Con. It will open your eyes to some amazing facts and research behind the current cholesterol-lowering phenomena!
If we really want to do something about cholesterol, then more doctors need to start putting their patients on a low-carb diet and exercise program to lower total cholesterol and even raise HDL cholesterol levels without the use of any drugs. We need to get out of the Stone Age of medicine and start showing people how they can take better care of their own health naturally and effectively. Livin' la vida low-carb can help us get there sooner rather than later.
You can contact Dr. Yin-Xiong Li about his research by e-mailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2-5-07 UPDATE: Dr. Yin-Xiong Li sent me an e-mail today regarding my focus on his cholesterol research and confirmed many of my suspicions about how he is being villified by the mainstream medical research establishment.
Thank you for writing to introduce our work. I am currently in the craziness of applying for an NIH grant. This grant is the fourth time it has been submitted to them. As you see from the study you highlighted at your blog, our research has been conducted without government grant support for three years and it was fully supported by my own starting package from Duke.
Anyway, since the paper was published last month, I received lots of attention worldwide from intersted individuals and basic research scientists. While most of them agree with me and appreciate what I am doing by telling the truth, some doctors and drug makers are marking me and my work as ridiculous. You know from what you are doing at your blog the kind pressure that I am facing now.
I am working on my grant at this moment to help further our research. The published work I wrote about is specifically about how important cholesterol is in supporting stem cell growth in embryo development. What I said about heart disease is a reasonable speculation that needs more investigation to test.
Yin-Xiong Li, MD., Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine
Pediatrics and Cell Biology
Duke University Medical Center
THANK YOU for sharing your comments with me and my readers, Dr. Li! When you present work that goes against what many have established as irrefutable truths, then you truly are a marked man. But a real scientist (LIKE YOU!) realizes that nothing is absolutely certain without the research to back it up. Keep doing what you are doing, Dr. Li, and make us proud.