Tag Archives: cardiovascular disease

July 2015 in review: part 1

There have been a good number of tweets on the #WDDTY hashtag highlighting bonkers claims in the July 2015 edition of WDDTY, so lets take a quick whistle-stop tour through its pages.

We dealt with the cover stories yesterday. Page 2 is (as usual) a full-page “we’ll never take advertising” advert for Altrient, which appears to be in competition with homeopathy as their strapline is “nothing compares to Altrient”. They lead with a “33% increase in skin firmness” cream, high dose vitamin C (perfect for enriching your urine) and “high performance” glutathione, which, you will be pleased to hear, may support optimal overall health (quackvertising code for: there is no credible evidence that it does), supports a number of fad diets, and contains no gluten or GMOs. WDDTY seems quite happy for the drugs it likes to be oversold with vague and inflated claims, it seems. Continue reading July 2015 in review: part 1

Cholesterol: zero shades of grey or, Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia

The thing about quacks and quackery shills is that they don’t do nuance. Medicine = bad, natural = good because duh obvious. This simplistic thinking is absent in science, of course, but it makes for some pretty comical content in WDDTY. Consider LDL. The starting premise here is that statins – sorry, statin drugs, mustn’t forget to label them as products of big pharma – are evil. But they provably lower levels of LDL cholesterol. Therefore LDL cholesterol must be good, right? So WDDTY expends significant effort persuading its readers that LDL cholesterol is beneficial.

LDL cholesterol isn’t the ‘bad guy’ after all As we’ve been saying for years now, LDL isn’t the ‘bad’ cholesterol responsible for heart disease and blocked arteries-and now  scientists are proving it. Although it’s the target of statin drugs, LDL doesn’t cause fatty deposits in the arteries, but prevents them.

Saying for years. Hmmm.

  • April 2008 p10: “The diet can also reduce LDL, or ‘bad’, cholesterol levels“.
  • Oct 2011 p18: “After 40 days, all doses of cinnamon significantly reduced blood glucose, triglycerides, and LDL (‘bad’) and total cholesterol levels“.
  • Aug 2012 p4: “The antioxidant is found in almost all fruits, including peaches and oranges, lots of vegetables and Brazil nuts, and appears to have the same protective effect as a statin drug, which promotes the ‘good’ HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol while lowering levels of ‘bad’ LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol” .

Those are just a sample of the many hits for “LDL cholesterol” in WDDTY back issues, the vast majority of which talk about “natural” ways to reduce LDL without taking those statins. Sorry, statin DRUGS!!!! Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia.

The ‘good/bad’ cholesterol theory, which launched the multibillion-pound statin drugs industry, has claimed that oxidized LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol infiltrates the arterial walls and engorges them with cholesterol. ln time, cholesterol turns into plaque, blocking the artery or sending clots into the bloodstream, causing heart attacks and strokes.

This is “claimed” on the basis of good biomedical evidence. But, you know, science self-corrects. In matters of complex biochemistry new findings can overturn old ones. That’s one of the ways science is different from quackery – no homeopathic remedy has ever been discarded on the basis that it’s subsequently found not to work, no cancer quack has ever shut down after trials show their treatment to be bogus.

Statin drugs target LDL cholesterol while allowing the ‘good’ HDL cholesterol to flourish. But scientists for a while now have been finding that the theory just isn’t true. Results from human and animal studies show LDL cholesterol isn’t the ‘bad guy’ after all.

Current consensus seems to be that LDL may have beneficial effects as well as harmful ones. Which is hardly a surprise. Observational data shows that raised levels of LDL are a risk for heart attack and stroke, but what constitutes raised may vary according to the patient and their other risk factors. Or as Dr. Goldacre might say: I think you’ll find it’s a bit more complicated than that. Here’s a handy table that explains what that means:

Markers indicating a need for LDL-C Reduction (Per 2004 United States Government Minimum Guidelines)
 If the patient’s cardiac risk is…  then the patient should consider LDL-C reduction if the count in mg/dL is over… and LDL-C reduction is indicated if the count in mg/dL is over…
 High, meaning a 20% or greater risk of heart attack within 10 years, or an extreme risk factor  70 100
 moderately high, meaning a 10-20% risk of heart attack within 10 years and more than 2 heart attack risk factors  100 130
 moderate, meaning a 10% risk of heart attack within 10 years and more than 2 heart attack risk factors  130 160
 low, meaning less than 10% risk of heart attack within 10 years and 1 or 0 heart attack risk factors  160 190

Of course there’s no way WDDTY could know this, as it’s drawn from secret sources: the US National Institutes for Health and the American Board of Clinical Lipidology.

Researchers at the University of Kentucky are becoming increasingly convinced by the evidence. “Our research … seems to indicate that oxidized LDL might, in fact, be a ‘good guy’ in the process,” said lead researcher Jason Meyer.

You can read the reality-based take on this at Science Daily. The full quote (not from an interview with WDDTY, by the way, as their story rather implies):

“Oxidized LDL moves rapidly into arterial walls and engorges them with cholesterol,” Meyer said. “Cholesterol ultimately converts into plaque, blocking the arteries or, in a worst case scenario, rupturing and sending clots into the bloodstream, causing heart attacks and/or strokes.” However, more recent studies in animals and humans have brought that assumption into question, and the oxidized LDL theory is currently the subject of lively debate. “Though in its very early stages, our research will add considerably to that controversy,” Meyer said, “because it seems to indicate that oxidized LDL might, in fact, be a ‘good guy’ in the process.”

So: partially oxidised LDL may have a role in reducing the effects of cholesterol, which is still the bad guy. See how that’s different from WDDTY’s spin?

Their research has shown that LDL cholesterol actually prevents the increase of cholesterol-laden foam cells in artery walls, making it a protective mechanism against the development of heart disease and atherosclerosis (hardened and obstructed arteries).

Or, as Science Daily puts it, “If it is demonstrated that oxidized LDL actually has a preventive effect on the accumulation of cholesterol in arterial walls, it may be possible to create a medicine from oxidized LDL to help prevent or treat this killer disease” “There is still much work to do because this project is very early in development and has not been tested in animals, but the results we have so far are very promising.” So, this is a preliminary finding in an area subject to active dispute, but the consensus view has not yet changed – and might never change, there would first need to be some accounting for the observational data that shows elevated risk in patients with elevated LDL cholesterol. So unlike WDDTY to rewrite history, spin scientific findings and present tentative early findings as the slam dunk evidence that their nonsensical anti-medicine agenda is somehow evidence based. I say unlike, I mean, of course, entirely characteristic. Oh, do read the Wikipedia article on LDL. It makes a lot more sense of the apparently conflicting information than anything published by the Ministry of Truth WDDTY.

Aspirin to greater accuracy

Sorry about the bad pun.

Hot on the heels of the John Diamond Challenge, in which WDDTY is busted for peddling nonsense about aspirin, @jdc325 published an article demolishing a related comment also about aspirin.

It’s reproduced below with permission. Continue reading Aspirin to greater accuracy