‘Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.’ Winston Churchill
Anyone reading this blog will know that I do not believe a raised LDL/Cholesterol causes heart disease. I am not going to bore you with my reasoning here. Suffice to say that it is a completely non-scientific theory that rapidly dissolves on contact with critical thought, or the evidence.
I recognise that this flies in the face of conventional thinking. Indeed, almost every day there is a new headline about the wonders of cholesterol lowering using statins. Recently Professor Sir Rory Collins re-iterated his wish that all adults over the age of the fifty should take statins. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2194892/All-50s-statins-regardless-health-history-says-Oxford-professor.html
Just around about exactly the same time someone sent me a link to an article about the effect of statins on coronary artery calcification in diabetics. For those who don’t know, calcification of the arteries is a very powerful indicator that you have serious atherosclerosis in the arteries in your heart. The basic underlying cause of coronary heart disease.
To quote from WebMD on an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA):
“A test that measures calcium deposits in the walls of the blood vessels supplying the heart is better than other tests for identifying patients at risk for heart attack and stroke. Coronary artery calcium score (CAC) was found to be the most accurate predictor of whether people would suffer one of these events, in a study published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The test is increasingly used by heart doctors to identify heart disease, says cardiologist Gordon Tomaselli, MD, of Johns Hopkins University Medical Center. He was not involved with the study. “Someone who has calcium in their coronary arteries is no longer at risk for developing heart disease — they have heart disease,” he tells WebMD. “That is why more and more cardiologists are using this test.” (WebMD Health NewsAug. 21, 2012)
So you would expect, would you not, that statins would reduce the amount of coronary artery calcification. Or at least the progression of calcification. Furthermore, you would expect that this effect would be especially pronounced in people with diabetes as their risk of heart disease is around three to five times as great as in the rest of population.
Much my great lack of surprise, the study I was sent found the following (just read the conclusion if you like):
Objective: to determine the effect of statin use on progression of vascular calcification in type 2 diabetes (T2DM).
Research and Design methods: Progression of coronary artery calcification (CAC) and abdominal aortic artery calcification (AAC) was assessed according to the frequency of statin use in 197 participants with T2DM.
Results: After adjustment for baseline CAC and other confounders, progression of CAC was significantly higher in more frequent statin users than in less frequent users (mean ± SE, 8.2 ± 0.5 mm(3) vs. 4.2 ± 1.1 mm(3); P < 0.01). AAC progression was in general not significantly increased with more frequent statin use; in a subgroup of participants initially not receiving statins, however, progression of both CAC and AAC was significantly increased in frequent statin users.
Conclusions: More frequent statin use is associated with accelerated coronary artery calcification in T2DM patients with advanced atherosclerosis.
[Saremi A, Bahn G, Reaven PD: ‘Progression of Vascular Calcification Is Increased with statin Use in the Veterans Affairs Diabetes Trial (VADT)’ .Diabetes 2012 Aug 8. [Epub ahead of print]]
So, there you go. Statins, which protect against heart disease (a bit), accelerate coronary artery calcification. Explain that one.
My explanation is simple. Statins do not work by lowering cholesterol levels. In fact, lower cholesterol levels lead to more rapid development of atherosclerosis. Any beneficial effect of statins is due to anti-coagulant effect – amongst other non-lipid effects.
Would a supporter of the cholesterol hypothesis care to come up with another explanation that fits the facts?
Anyway, here was a sudden flash of truth. Like supernova they light up the sky for a bit, then fade. Then the world will carry on believing in the cholesterol hypothesis, pretty much as before. Facts cannot destroy belief.
To quote Daniel Kahneman, Nobel prize winner in economics, on the irrationality of the financial system, and how people come to believe in things. He makes many interesting points. For example:
‘The way scientists try to convince people is hopeless because they present evidence, figures, tables, arguments, and so on. But that’s not how to convince people. People aren’t convinced by arguments, they don’t believe conclusions because they believe in the arguments that they read in favour of them. They’re convinced because they read or hear the conclusions from people they trust. You trust someone and you believe what they say. That’s how ideas are communicated. The arguments come later.’