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Cholesterol and Heart Disease: A Phony Issue PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mary G. Enig, PhD   
Saturday, 30 June 2001 19:30

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"The Soft Science of Dietary Fats," by Gary Taubes, in the March 30, 2001 issue of Science,1 exposes the shenanigans of the 1970s McGovern Senate Committee staff and the follow-on by various government agencies that gave us the anti-fat, anti-cholesterol dietary goals and guidelines. This exposé adds to the material in "The Oiling of America"2 by Enig and Fallon and The Cholesterol Myths3 by Ravnskov. Taken together, these works provide substantial food for thought.

Blood cholesterol levels between 200 and 240 mg/dl are normal. These levels have always been normal. In older women, serum cholesterol levels greatly above these numbers are also quite normal, and in fact they have been shown to be associated with longevity. Since 1984, however, in the United States and other parts of the western world, these normal numbers have been treated as if they were an indication of a disease in progress or a potential for disease in the future.

As a result of some of this misinformation, which was purposefully planted by the leadership of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) in 1984, many hundreds of thousands of people are treated with expensive medications to prevent the development of a non-existent illness. If the medications were only expensive and not life threatening, their use could no doubt be shrugged off as a harmless snake oil pharmaceutical scam; but, in fact, these are thoroughly dangerous medications for both physical and emotional reasons—for physical reasons because their use can lead to serious untreatable diseases such as liver cancer, and for emotional reasons because their use perpetuates the myth that cholesterol is dangerous and evil.

In his book The Cholesterol Myths, Dr. Uffe Ravnskov tells us what happens to an older woman who has normal high serum cholesterol levels. When her blood is tested in a forced cholesterol checkup, the cholesterol myth is used to justify treatment of her nonexistent disease state and she loses her vibrant state of good health.

The official advice to lower serum cholesterol levels has brought about numerous supplements with the attached claim that consuming them will lower cholesterol. This further supports the myth of cholesterol as an undesirable component of body and diet. In fact, the body uses cholesterol to repair and to protect. When improvement to the health of the body brought about by good changes in lifestyle or diet results in a lowering of serum cholesterol, it can be counted as an example of the body no longer needing the extra circulating cholesterol. The repair has been accomplished.

A month after the exposé in Science, the NHLBI responded by lowering its recommended "at risk" cholesterol level and increasing the number of people it wants to put on cholesterol lowering drugs. But there may be hope that the truth will win. Independent thoughtful researchers have continued to point out that there is a real need for correcting the wrong advice given to the public regarding the consumption of dietary fats. New research continues to show that the saturated fats are not a problem, that the trans fatty acids found in partially hydrogenated vegetable fats and oils really are a problem, and that the lack of appropriate balance in the diet of the polyunsaturated omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids is also a problem. Even the mono-unsaturates have been taken to task by some of the recent research. And lowfat diets are being shown to be counterproductive.

The lesson to be learned from all of this is that the old-fashioned, more saturated fats form the healthy basis of a good quality diet. And a good quality diet can help to produce a state of vibrant good health. Meanwhile, there is no need to worry about your cholesterol levels. This is a phony issue.


  1. Gary Taubes, "The Soft Science of Dietary Fat," Science, March 30, 2001.
  2. Mary Enig, PhD and Sally Fallon, "The Oiling of America."
  3. Uffe Ravnskov, MD, PhD, The Cholesterol Myths: Exposing the Fallacy that Cholesterol and Saturated Fat Cause Heart Disease, NewTrends Publishing, Washington, DC, 2000. More info online at:
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Summer 2001.

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Comments (6)Add Comment
written by AchieveBirmingham, Feb 04 2013
You know a nation-wide study from last year showed that the average adult in the United States has lower levels of cholesterol now than in the late 80's. I was thinking that there must be a broad number of factors that are playing into these lower cholesterol levels. I mean, would you say that there are less people that smoke now compared to the 80's? This could be one of the factors in America's improving cholesterol levels. Then again,this could also reflect a growing number of people who are prescribed medication for unhealthy cholesterol levels. Anyways, I wanted to say thanks for the really intriguing post!
New Way of Lowering Cholesterol
written by Stephen in Miami, Jan 15 2013
Hello, so I recently wrote up an article on a probiotic formulation that can reduce bad cholesterol levels. I think the results of this study are really intriguing, especially since this is a method of reducing your cholesterol which can be easily implemented. Just like taking your daily vitamins, you could be taking a probiotic supplement that would be doing a lot of good for your long-term heart health. What's more, the effective dosage for this probiotic is way less than plenty of other cholesterol-lowering supplements that researchers have experimented with.
written by Stephen in Orlando, Mar 10 2012
This is a real eye opening post. Recently, I have been looking into cholesterol clinical studies that are taking place around the country. Medical researchers are trying to develop safer methods of effectively reducing the LDL cholesterol in people. After reading this post though, it seems that a good number of people can relax about their cholesterol levels. Still, it's nice to know that there should be better treatments available soon.
Cholesterol conversion
written by Kris Johnson, Dec 10 2011
Sorry to take to long to reply, Janet, but just saw your question. Here's a cholesterol converter, I presume that your desired level of 5.5 is mmol.l which is about 213 mg.dl - the typical too low "normal." Your 7.1 mmol/l is 275 mg/dl - not unreasonable for a woman, esp. older woman. Very often when someone starts consuming good fats again - whole raw milk, butter, etc. their cholesterol levels will go down as the problems the cholesterol was working to correct are resolved. Hope all is well and you've avoided the statin trap.
Conversion to mmol/L
written by J Bassett, Jul 26 2011
In the US, cholesterol levels are measured in mg/dL while almost all of the rest of the world uses mmol/L, which is more accurate. 200 – 240 mg/dL is equivalent to 5.12 – 6.15 mmol/L. Eatings a veriety of good fats is vital to good health, and non-negotiable. As Mary Enig writes, ‘There is no need to worry about your cholesterol levels. This is a phony issue.’
Question re cholesterol
written by Janet, May 05 2011
Could you tell me what the measurements 200-240 mg/dl is equivalent to in Australian measurements where the desired level as per current medical knowledge is 5.5? I've always had a high level of cholesterol according to doctors at 6.0-6.3 in the last tests it has been going up and is now 7.1. I won't go on medication as I know 3 people who have had adverse effects on two different drugs. I have just started eating fats again to see if that will normalise my cholesterol.

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Last Updated on Friday, 05 June 2009 23:51