Diet beats pills for lowering cholesterol

We’ve been talking about diet a lot this week, now that my new book is available for pre-order. But I didn’t just write The A-List Diet to help you look good…The fact is, losing weight is one of the most critical things you can do to improve your overall health. And eating the right foods, in the right proportions, is key.

Case in point — an article just popped up in my email inbox with the headline “Is Diet Outpacing Pills in Driving Down U.S. Lipid Levels?”

That sure would be something. It would mean my lifelong goal — to get the world to understand that a better diet means fewer pills — has been achieved. And if that’s the case, I may as well just hang up my stethoscope and get myself to a beach.

Of course, you know I don’t care about cholesterol levels. But lower numbers do tend to shut the mainstream medical community up, so if they’re admitting diet is effective in getting you there, it’s worth taking note.

The article reported on results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which found that levels of total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol are continuing to drop in U.S. adults. Levels have been trending downward lately, so that’s not really surprising.

Here’s the part that did surprise researchers: The sharpest drops were in subjects who weren’t taking statins or other lipid-lowering drugs. The fact that the people not taking cholesterol-lowering meds saw steeper declines than those who were taking them tells you that the drugs are not responsible for the trend toward lower lipid rates. Despite the fact that they’re basically handed out like Halloween candy.

You know how I feel about cholesterol-lowering medications, so this was music to my ears.

The study didn’t get into the “why’s” behind the link between diet and lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, but the lead researcher theorized the decline could be due, in part, to the fact

that trans-fatty acids have been removed from foods over the past several years.

Let’s remember, though, that trans-fats still aren’t banned. It’s true that food manufacturers have been required to divulge trans-fat content on nutrition labels since 2006. But when an all-out ban on artificial trans-fats was suggested in 2013, the FDA balked.

Besides, we’ve known about the dangers of trans-fats since they were first introduced back in the 1970s. But the FDA still gave the food industry a free pass to slather our food in them. The FDA then gave a free pass to Big Pharma to peddle statins as the “solution” to the problem they had just created.

Basically, the FDA turned its back on the public while the food and drug industries created the diabesity epidemic we are currently facing.

Fast forward to 2015, when the FDA had an apparent change of heart. They gave food manufacturers three years to get rid of partially hydrogenated oils in their foods. These oils are the leading source of artificial trans-fats in processed foods. What finally prompted them to do something right is a mystery. But the result has been positive. Trans-fat consumption has dropped 78 percent between 2003 and 2012.

Has the decline in trans-fats had an effect on cholesterol levels? Certainly. But here’s where my opinion differs from the authors of this study. They seem to credit the FDA’s too-little-too-late attempts to address trans-fats for the declines in lipid levels.

I think that’s a ridiculous suggestion. Sure, the FDA played a role in mitigating the problem it created decades before, but I’d also like to think the American people played a part too.

Since 1999, people have slowly but surely been moving away from the low-fat trends that gave rise to trans-fats to begin with. Instead, many people have adopted low-carb/Paleo diets. Others are becoming vegetarians (which I don’t advise, but a plant-based diet does lower cholesterol — for what that’s worth). Millions more are taking supplements like fish oils, red yeast rice, and CoQ10. All of those factors combined are likely having a bigger effect on the decline in lipid levels than a flimsy attempt at regulation from the FDA.

So, is diet responsible for this trend? Absolutely. But even when they got that right, they didn’t bother to address the 6,000-pound gorilla in the room. Typical.

I guess I can’t retire just yet after all.


“Is Diet Outpacing Pills in Driving Down US Lipid Levels?” MedScape Medical News (, 12/2/16