Interviewer: Cholesterol medication is one of the most popularly
prescribed, I guess. What can be done maybe in replacement of that that's
Dr. Upton: Replacement is to replace the concept that you have to actually
reduce cholesterol level. There's never been any documentation that
reduction of cholesterol levels actually reduces morbidity and mortality
associated with cardiovascular disease. So, you're chasing a ghost. You are
chasing a ghost.
The rumor that cholesterol is a hormone produced by the body, predominantly
produced by the liver, it's the very little that we actually ingest. Now,
we'll ingest precursors that the liver will use to produce more
cholesterol, but that's a different story. Most of the cholesterol that's
in actually in our system is what's produced endogenously.
So, it's a hormone. The body needs hormones. Cholesterol is almost like a
protective buffer in our body. Now, that doesn't mean that you should allow
it to just go crazy. You already probably now about the ratios of HDL and
LDL are more predictive of a healthier profile than absolute levels. But
what the drug companies do is say, "We have a new drug that can get you
down..." It used to be 250. We'd shoot for 300. Now we're going to shoot
Now we're going to show for 150 because now we have a drug that will drive
it down that way. Then when you look at the actual studies on most of the
statins, you see that while cholesterol comes down, there's no change in
survivability or mortality of people taking statins versus not. But
interestingly, to me this is one of the most fascinating things that's not
discussed, a lot of the increased mortality associated with taking the
statin drugs is not due to heart disease. It's due to deaths due to
violence - murders, accidents and suicides.
Chinese medicine has some really interesting things to say about it, which
I won't get into because it just gets lost because you have to know the
Chinese philosophy behind it. That's where I was saying cholesterol is like
a buffer in the body. It buffers. It softens. You drive it down low, low.
You turn a person - make them really edgy, prone to anger, prone to
irrationality and that's what you see in the literature with regards to the
increased mortality associated with statin drugs.
That being said, you've got a half a dozen really, really good cholesterol
lowering herbs ranging from garlic, but it has to be a garlic that yields
Allison. Most of the non-Allison yielding garlic products work very poorly
on reducing cholesterol levels. They're good at reducing cancer risk, but
they're not good for reducing cholesterol.
One of my favorites is Guggul, G-U-G-G-U-L, which is an Ayurveda herb that
works in much the same way as the statin drugs. It inhibits the enzyme that
produces cholesterol in the liver, but it doesn't have the same level of
strength as the statin. So it doesn't just drive it down, trying to drive
it down to zero. You don't want to do it. There has to be a balance.
The Guggul has also been shown to have a beneficial HDL, LDL ratio where
other things just drive cholesterol down and can actually worsen the
ratios. Chinese salve here is another one that's really, really good. One
of my favorites too is fish oils. I think everybody should be taking some
type of fish oil as a regular supplement just because of the incredible
benefits. But there is again where you don't want to look at just the
endpoint of lowering cholesterol.
You want to say, "How do I reduce my risk of heart disease?" Because that's
what the fear of cholesterol is, "So, how do I reduce my risk?" Well, stop
smoking. Stop drinking like a fish. Start exercising moderately. Watch the
stress and engage in stress reduction whether it's dancing, swimming, for
some people smoking a joint, for other people praying and meditating.
That's what the real question is, "How do I reduce my risk for heart
disease?" Not, "How do I really just lower my cholesterol?"