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"The Cholesterol Myths"
By Uffe Ravnskov
New Trends Publishing; Washington, DC; 2000. ISBN: 0-9670897-0-0, 300 pp.

A Hot Book Indeed
Book review by Stephen Byrnes, ND, RNCP

Would you buy a book that was literally set on fire by its critics on a television show about it in Finland? I would and so should you. The long-awaited English version of debunker extroidinaire Dr. Uffe Ravnskov's notorious book is now avaiavailable from New Trends Publishing.

Ravnskov, a medical doctor with a PhD in Chemistry, has had over 40 papers and letters published in peer-reviewed journals criticizing what Dr. George Mann, formerly of Vanderbuilt University, once called "the greatest scam in the history of medicine": the Lipid Hypothesis of heart disease, the belief that dietary saturated fats and cholesterol clog arteries and cause atherosclerosis and heart disease.

If one thing comes through as you read the book, it is this: Ravnskov has done his homework. In painstaking detail, he critically analyzes and demolishes the nine main myths of the Lipid Hypothesis: (1) High-fat foods cause heart disease, (2) High cholesterol causes heart disease, (3) High fat foods raise blood cholesterol, (4) Cholesterol blocks arteries, (5) Animal studies prove the diet-heart idea, (6) Lowering your cholesterol will lengthen your life, (7) Polyunsaturated oils are good for you, (8) The cholesterol campaign is based on good science, and (9) All scientists support the diet-heart idea.

Equipped with a razor-sharp mind, an impressive command of the literature, and a deadly, needling sarcasm, Ravnskov methodically slaughters the most famous Sacred Cow of modern medicine and the most profitable Cash Cow for assorted pharmaceutical companies. Sparing no one, Ravnskov again and again presents the tenets of the Lipid Hypothesis and the studies which supposedly prove them, and shows how the studies are flawed or based on manipulated statistics that actually prove nothing. Ravnskov then answers the objections or rationalizations offered by diet-heart supporters, desperate to explain away inconsistencies and contradictions in their own data.

For example, Ravnskov opens with an analysis of the study that kicked off the Lipid Hypothesis in the 1950s: Ancel Keys' Six Countries Study (and later, the more famous Seven Countries Study). As most health professionals know, Keys' study showed that countries with the highest animal fat intake have the highest rates of heart disease. Keys' conclusion was that there was a cause and effect relationship because the country with the lowest animal fat intake (at that time, Japan) had the lowest rates of heart disease. Sounds convincing, right? Not so, says Dr. Ravnskov. And in a few pages the reader is informed how Keys hand-picked the countries he included in his studies, namely, the ones that supported his hypothesis, and conveniently ignored all of the other countries that didn't.

And this is just the beginning!

Ravnskov approaches true brilliance in his review of the studies that supposedly showed benefit from the current wonder-drugs pushed by the pharmaceutical industry: the statins. Hailed as miracle substances that "significantly reduce cholesterol and incidence of heart attacks," Ravnskov shows that these substances are probable carcinogens (women on the drugs had a much higher incidence of breast cancer) and that the overall statistical reduction of heart disease in the drug trials is negligible. Nevertheless, despite the dismal results of the very first trial (the EXCEL Trial which Ravnskov soberingly describes to the reader), the industry and its well-funded doctors urge their use, even in people who do not have heart disease.

Ravnskov warns: "Because the latent period between exposure to carcinogen and the incidence of clinical cancer in humans may be 20 years or more, the absence of any controlled trials of this duration means that we do not know whether statin treatment will lead to . . . cancer in coming decades. Thus, millions of people are being treated with medications the ultimate effects of which are not yet known."

If there is one weakness of the book, it is its lack of explanations of what DOES cause heart disease. Ravnskov comes close to fingering a few factors such as high stress, excessive polyunsaturated fat intake, trans-fatty acids, and smoking, but he never offers his own theory as to what causes the Western world's number one killer.

This is, however, a minor glitch. Ravnskov has done the world a major service in presenting his findings. All health professionals need to listen to this scholar and listen very carefully for the advice offered by the medical establishment for the last 50 years to beat heart disease has failed miserably. It is time to turn away from cholesterol-lowering drugs that have frightening side effects. It is time to turn away from tasteless low-fat diets that harm children and deprive people of fat-soluble vitamins. And it is time to turn away from the junk science that characterizes the Lipid Hypothesis and its supporters. It is time, instead, to listen to reason and view all of the evidence against a failed hypothesis and discover the true and varied risks and causes of heart disease. It is time to listen to Uffe Ravnskov.

The book is available from New Trends Publishing

Review by Stephen Byrnes, ND, RNCP, DrByrnes@hotmail.com

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