Much Ado About Cholesterol

by Dr. Eduardo Castro, Medical Director
Mount Rogers Clinic
Troutdale, VA
Dr. Elmer Cranton, Consultant

Cholesterol does not cause coronary artery disease. It is a minor risk indicator that has been distorted out of proportion, largely, because the cholesterol lowering drugs help decrease the incidence of adverse cardiovascular events.

The assumption is that if a cholesterol-lowering drug leads to clinical improvement, then cholesterol must be the culprit. But there is increasing evidence that the benefit from these drugs has little or nothing to do with lowering cholesterol, rather from a decrease in the inflammatory process in the arteries.

Artherosclerotic disease, with its arterial plaques and hardening of the arteries, is, in fact, caused by inflammation of the lining of our arteries. This inflammatory process is an attempt to heal injuries to the arterial wall, and in doing so, it transports cholesterol to the site, as cholesterol is necessary for healing. Here, cholesterol can be oxidized and can contribute to the size and instability of the forming plaque.

Cholesterol is not a culprit-more an innocent bystander. Among the vital things we should keep in mind is the fact that cholesterol is necessary for life and for health. Our bodies readily produce it, mostly in our livers, for the wide range of functions it is involved in. Cholesterol intake from diet has little effect on blood levels-the less we eat, the more our livers will produce.

High cholesterol levels are due more to the carbohydrates we eat than to the fats. Carbohydrates are broken down to sugar, glucose. Insulin is secreted to lower elevated glucose levels. Insulin is a major factor in determining how much cholesterol and triglycerides our livers produce.

If you want to lower your cholesterol, limit sugar intake, as well as the carbohydrates that rapidly cause elevated blood sugar levels-bread, cereal, pasta, rice, potatoes. Sad but true, those beloved foods have the same effects on our blood sugar levels that desserts do. It is not that we should eliminate these foods, but that we should eat them less frequently and in more modest proportions. Just because they don't have fat in them doesn't mean they can be eaten without consequences, as the low-fat/high-carbohydrate gurus would have us think.

This is not speculative thinking. Over the past thirty years, fat consumption in the U.S. has decreased significantly but Americans are heavier than ever in every age category, men and women, boys and girls. And cholesterol levels have certainly not decreased over the past few decades.

Linus Pauling, the only person to win two unshared Nobel prizes, one in physics and one in chemistry, studied the inflammatory condition in arteries and found substantial evidence that much of the damage in arteries is due to a very mild form of scurvy from inadequate intake of Vitamin C. A marked decrease in arterial damage and inflammation is seen when 5,000-15,000 mg of Vitamin C are taken daily.

One way of optimizing Vitamin C is to gradually increase the dose until you get loose stools, then back the dose down a bit. Interestingly, if you are sick, you are able to tolerate a much higher dose of Vitamin C before your stools get loose. The loose stools, by the way, are not a toxic effect, but just from increased absorption of water into your bowel.

The traditional approach to elevated cholesterol is to take one of the cholesterol-lowering drugs, or statins (Lipitor, Zocor, Mevacor, Lescol, Pravachol). These drugs improve the cholesterol profile, but they commonly cause fatigue and/or muscle pain. This is likely in part due to the fact that in addition to lowering cholesterol, the statins also inhibit the body's production of the extraordinarily important coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). CoQ10 is essential for the production of energy in every cell in the body. The heart and the brain have the greatest CoQ10 requirements. Multiple health benefits result when CoQ10 is increased with supplementation. This is why Dr. Cranton designed the Basic Antiox packets to provide 120 mg of CoQ10 per day.1

One of the statin drugs, Baycol, was discontinued due to its producing a severe, sometimes lethal, muscle-wasting disease, called rhabdomyolysis. Please note though, that although Baycol had a higher percentage of patients who developed rhabdomyolysis, all the statin drugs have caused some cases. If a person develops muscle pain, weakness, and fatigue after starting a statin, or after their dose has been increased, he or she should return to the prescribing physician for a reevaluation, and request that a serum creatine kinase be checked.

Other potential problems with the statins are that they may cause liver or kidney damage, and they may increase the risk of cancer.

The question is can risks of adverse cardiovascular events be lowered without the risks posed by the statin drugs?

I discussed this question recently with Dr. Cranton. He pointed out the results from the Harvard Nurses Health Study. Those in the study with the highest 20% intake of vitamins, only available from the high-potency vitamin-minerals, had a greater reduction in cardiovascular disease than any data on the statins ever showed.

And not only cardiovascular disease. Those who took the vitamin-mineral multiples also had lower rates of cancer, of Alzheimer's disease, and fewer cataracts.

There are much better and safer anti-inflammatory agents than the statin drugs, not to mention much less expensive.

Of course there is another concern regarding cholesterol, and that is maintaining a good relationship with your family doctor or cardiologist. They are likely to be quite adamant about you keeping your cholesterol level in what is thought to be the desired range. For those who want to improve the numbers on the cholesterol panel, there are two better, safer options for improving cholesterol levels. One is Panthethine. Pantethine is a derivative of pantothenic acid (Vitamin B5) that exerts more dramatic improvements on cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood than pantothenic acid is able to do alone. Our bodies make small amounts of Panthethine, so it is a substance our bodies are designed to process.

Multiple studies document the safety and efficacy of Panthethine. The findings in these studies are quite impressive. Among the findings are the following:

1. decreased total cholesterol levels by 15-19%
2. increased HDL-cholesterol by 14-23%
3. decreased LDL-cholesterol by 17-21%
4. decreased triglycerides by 25-32%
5. increased metabolism of fats in artery walls

The studies used Pantethine doses between approximately 300 mg per day to several grams per day. The benefits appeared to plateau at 600-1000 mg per. No toxicities were reported. An occasional instance of loose stools was easily resolved by dividing the dose over three smaller doses. Pantethine actually supports healthy bowel functioning by enhancing the breakdown of toxic aldehydes in the bowel and liver. Due to the dose, we have found it more convenient to take Pantethine in powdered form. It is easier to take two 1/2 teaspoon scoops than ten tablets per day. A lot cheaper, too.

The other good option for improving cholesterol is another B-vitamin, niacin (Vitamin B3). Niacin also decreases total cholesterol, increases HDL-cholesterol, decreases LDL-cholesterol, and decreases triglyceride levels in similar proportions to pantethine.

There are several considerations if you choose to take high-dose niacin. The first is that niacin may well cause a "flush." A niacin flush is a harmless but annoying reaction that occurs when niacin intake is suddenly increased. It is temporary reddening of the skin, accompanied by tingling and perhaps itching. It may be avoided by gradually increasing the dose of niacin, from 100 mg per day to 1,000+ mg per day.

Because of the flush, some people tried taking slow-release niacin, but it led to liver damage. It was later determined that if the soluble fiber that was added to the niacin was removed, the liver problems did not occur. Subsequently, slow release forms of niacin were developed.

Another no-flush form of niacin, niacinamide, is safe and otherwise nutritional, but it does not exert a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels.

We find the third no-flush niacin option, Inositol hexaniacinate, to be the most appealing. It confers all the benefits of niacin without the flushing or need for gradual dosing. Taken properly, liver toxicity is not a consideration. A dose of 1,000 mg-15000 mg per day (one tablet taken two or three times per day) will help optimize cholesterol and triglycerides levels.

And remember, improving the numbers on the cholesterol profile is not the goal, it is just a simple reflection of a minor risk indicator for cardiovascular disease. It is more important that you attend to the other mechanisms that improve your overall cardiovascular health. Decreasing the inflammation in arteries can be achieved through intelligent diet, nutrients (such as fish liver oil, L-arginine and Vitamin C), chelation therapy, and by decreasing the damaging oxidizing reactions which can be improved with diet and supplementation of antioxidants, such as in Basic Antiox. And, of course, exercise.

1My local pharmacist told me that statin drugs could cause muscle weakness and memory loss among other things, and that he hated them. The body needs CoQ-10 to avoid sudden heart attacks.

Dr. Julian Whittaker is trying to get the FDA to require a warning label on statin drugs that patients need to take CoQ-10 with this drug. See his letter to the FDA. He tells of the many harmful effects of the statin drugs in his letter to the FDA.

The UCSD Statin Study, headed by Beatrice A. Golomb, MD, PhD, has actively been researching statin medications and their possible side effects. You can report side effects from your statin drug use at Read the report of a conference on statin drugs at

See an article by Dr. Mercola Half the population will be taking statins.

This article "Much Ado About Cholesterol" was copied with permission from the Mount Rogers Clinic Newsletter
October 15, 2002
Volume 1, Issue 2

Disclaimer from the Mount Rogers Clinic: The information presented is intended to be educational in nature and is not intended as a basis for diagnosis or treatment. This newsletter in not intended to be a substitute for careful medical evaluation and treatment by a competent, licensed personal health care professional. We do not recommend changing any current medications or adding any new therapies without personally consulting a fully qualified physician. We specifically disclaim any liability arising directly or indirectly from information contained in this newsletter.

Disclaimer from Marie Flowers: This information is provided for educational purposes only, and does not replace a personal consultation with the health care professional of your choice.

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