Having established that lipid hypothesis does not square with either traditional wisdom or lipid science, we can begin to answer the question of what does cause heart disease and determine whether statins correct this imbalance.
Oxidized cholesterol is the middle man in heart disease, clogging arteries and dramatically increasing clot and stroke potential. One of the primary contributors to the formation of oxidized cholesterol is dietary, coming from oils or fats that have gone rancid or exposed to high heat and pressure in an industrialized process. Modern vegetable oils that fit into this category include corn, soy, canola, etc.,- that is, any oil that must undergo an industrial process to be extracted. The high heat and pressure from this process breaks the delicate double bonds within the fatty acid molecule forming, in part, trans-fats, the big bad wolf of lipid science well known to cause extensive oxidative damage to the body. Traditional plant oils such as olive and coconut do not require an industrial process to be extracted and if cold-processed and consumed raw, do not contribute towards the formation of trans-fats.
The irony of these findings is most apparent in the mainstream dietary recommendation to choose margarine over butter. When saturated fats were demonized, hydrogenated vegetable oils were championed as the superior spread. Forget the fact that butter is a natural food consumed for hundreds of years, and forget the fact that many traditional cultures eat tons of butter and don’t suffer from nearly the same level of heart disease (most recently known as the French paradox). No, butter became the bad guy and margarine sales skyrocketed. What we weren’t educated about at the time is that the hydrogenation process used to make liquid vegetable oils solid at room temperature, being an industrial process, produced lots of trans-fats and did not result in a reduction in rates of heart disease. What we instead observed is an increase in heart disease as vegetable oils were used in most all processed foods.
In addition, these oils tend to be very high in omega-6 fatty acids which can be pro-inflammatory in the right conditions (one of those being an overconsumption of them) and upset the balance between them and the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.
Eliminating sources of trans fats is critical, akin to taking the ammo out of a gun, but it is not the most prominent trigger underlying the disease process. As discussed previously, there are other factors that shift the body towards chronic inflammation which sets the stage for oxidized cholesterol to over exuberantly become deposited in your arteries. Another post will dive deeper into these fundamental causes but for now we should return to the limitations of statins in light of this information.
For one, statins do nothing to stop you from eating any number of trans-fatty acids from processed foods. In some ways, they do a disservice if they lull you into a false sense of security and cause you to neglect your diet. What statins do accomplish, and very effectively at that, is a reduction in your bodies ability to produce perfectly healthy and unoxidized cholesterol, which is essential for a number of biochemical reactions. Furthermore, it does this at a great cost to the body since statin drugs categorically deplete the body of the essential nutrient Coenzyme Q10. This is ironic considering that CoQ10 is found abundantly in the heart tissue and helps regulate its function, making oxygen accessible to the very active musculature of the heart. Extensive adverse effects reports therefore include muscle pain and weakness as being the primary side effects associated with statin use. Other side effects include cataracts, liver dysfunction, kidney failure, and most recently, cognitive decline akin to the symptoms of Alzheimer's.
What I am most concerned about in light of the adverse effects reported is a decrease in the rates of heart disease as defined by heart attacks but an increase in death due to heart failure as the heart muscle weakens under the influence of statin drugs.