News Flash: The Body Makes Cholesterol!

The new 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) finally came out in 2016.  They were held up an extra month because of the hostile and unexpectedly overwhelming response of the public to the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Advisory Report.  After political fiddling — which always happens in the face of an unexpected public outcry — and lobbyist diddling, the resulting report was something that pleased no one.  An outcome that pleases no one is almost a perfect result in litigation in which both parties have viable claims, but it is not necessarily the best outcome in what claims to be a scientific endeavor.  The science is either right or it isn’t.  The DGA should be the best and most current thinking science has to offer, but it isn’t.  The 2015 DGA is a politically driven piece of dreck designed to offend the fewest people and interest groups possible.

Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Worthless though they are, the DGA have at least provided some humor to me, if to no one else.

Take a look at the video below produced by Retro Report showing how the news media has reported the DGA changes over the years.  Most of these talking heads, or newsreaders as the Brits more accurately call them, read whatever ends up on their teleprompters, usually put there by their puppet masters.  What makes these folks good is their ability to read their lines as if they’re saying them spontaneously.  I recommend you watch the entire video, but if you don’t want to watch the whole thing at least watch from 10:30 on, which is the part we’ll discuss below.

CBS newsreader Scott Pelley says:

Here we go again. Experts are changing their recommendations about what we shouldn’t eat.

Then the voice over talks about how the Advisory Committee had determined that there was little evidence that dietary cholesterol drives cholesterol in the blood. (The actual recommendation removed the upper limit for dietary cholesterol, and instead of a number says: “individuals should eat as little dietary cholesterol as possible,” which is hardly urging folks to go face down in it.)

Then the ABC doctor talking head, Dr. Richard Besser, practically gushes that

Cholesterol is still linked to heart disease, but what we’ve learned is that cholesterol in our blood, most of it doesn’t come from food, our body makes it on our own.

He says this as if it’s something we just learned this afternoon!

Which I find really amusing, since we wrote about this in Protein Power twenty years ago.

Where does cholesterol come from? Although some [serum] cholesterol indeed does come from food, the vast majority (80 percent) is produced by the body itself. In fact, every cell in the body is capable of making its own cholesterol. Most don’t, however, and rely instead on that made in the liver, intestines, and skin, with the liver responsible for the lion’s share of the production. Due to the body’s need for large amounts of cholesterol, a feedback loop exists so that whenever dietary intake decreases the liver’s synthesis increases. And, in opposite fashion, when the diet is rich in cholesterol, the liver synthesizes less. This self-regulation helps explain the baffling research finding that blood cholesterol levels vary only minimally in the face of enormous variations in dietary intake. As a matter of fact most people, contrary to what you read and hear daily, can consume almost unlimited amounts of cholesterol without significantly increasing their blood cholesterol levels. That being the case, people having excessive blood cholesterol levels—and many do—must have a problem with the ability of their bodies to regulate cholesterol levels internally. That is precisely the case. The key to lowering elevated cholesterol levels is not in the restriction of dietary cholesterol or fat but in the dietary manipulation of the internal cholesterol regulatory system.

Although MD and I shared in the writing of the book, I happened to write this part of Protein Power, and I can tell you I didn’t just make it up.  I read the biochemistry and physiology textbooks of the time (it was written in 1994-5) and trolled through the medical literature in the same way I do today.  The fact that dietary cholesterol doesn’t really affect blood cholesterol was in common knowledge then.  It wasn’t a deep dark secret.

So I find it funny that 20 years later this fact is finally making its way into the Dietary Guidelines, and that talking heads are presenting it as if experts had just figured it out.

Another thing that would be funny if it weren’t so sad is the fact that the DGA are changing since their inception in 1980, though ever so slowly.

The human body hasn’t changed since 1980.  Metabolism is still the same now as it was then.  Ditto for biochemistry and physiology.  Many old papers warn about the dangers of sugar consumption.  John Yudkin wrote an entire book on the dangers of sugar back in 1972.  Researchers from years ago didn’t have a problem with saturated fat, which, by the way, is still frowned upon in the 2015 DGA despite a number of current papers showing it to be harmless.  And in 1980 when the DGA first came out, obesity levels had been stable for decades.

As many have noted, the first DGA in 1980 were based on ideology, not science.  Real science has been chipping away at them since, but at a glacial pace.  And sometimes even when changes are good, such as the tepid recommendation in the current DGA to reduce consumption of sugar (actually to limit “added sugar” intake), other changes are not so much so.

In the next post, I’ll go over some of the other problems with the Dietary Guidelines and tell you why, despite their advising a reduction in added sugar, these recommendations might make their followers fatter than ever.

 

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39 thoughts on “News Flash: The Body Makes Cholesterol!

  1. Some people believe that animal fat, not plant fat, (and not carbs) gums up the way insulin works so it makes us insulin resistant. I wish I knew what is actually true. They say eat starch, yes your insulin will go up – it is supposed to. Then it will go down again.

    I’m tetering on a 5.7 A1C. I would love to know the real answer.

    • And some people believe the moon is made of green cheese. It is tough to get real answers. I’ll try in the next post to clarify things a little.

    • Hi Julia.
      We are all different but overall rather similar so we should experiment what works for us individually. My wife and I follow LCHF (2 years now) we have lost 38kg and 20kg and dropped a bunch of chronic meds. Feel a ton better. My wife was diabetic (T2) for many years. Through LCHF she is in remission – no more insulin injections and reduced metformin. We are winners!
      Normal natural fasting blood glucose is usually around 5.5. The trick is to keep BG some where near and not allow it to swing wildly by controlling bad carb intake. This means that your insulin levels don’t swing wildly – too high insulin for too long too many times is literally and figuratively the killer condition. We also do intermittent fasting 12+ hours most days.
      We are winners!

    • This is one that I’ve come across as well. From what I can tell the general formula goes something like this:

      1. Defend/promote carbs using X
      2. X shown to have some flaw or be incorrect
      3. Defend/promote carbs using X+1
      4. X+1 shown to have some flaw or be incorrect
      5. Continue forever, always putting burden of proof on wrong party

      I don’t know the answer either, but since I’ve cut carbs I feel my health has improved and my day-to-day quality of life has improved.

    • I hear ya, Julia.

      When my mother was diagnosed with T2D, the “diabetes educator” at the HMO told her that her high-fat diet had caused diabetes. I think many diabetes educators teach this. They then told her to eat a diet that was 65% carbohydrate, a minimum of 30 carbs each meal. And handed her pictures of breakfasts that were whole-grain cereal, no-fat milk, orange juice, and a large apple.

      Don’t believe any of that. Please, save your feet. Eat a high-fat, moderate protein, low-carb diet. Have two whole eggs for breakfast scrambled in real butter and a cup of coffee. Eating this way will likely put your issues into remission in a surprising short time; altho’ a few people do still need some metformin.

      • Marci: I had exactly the same experience. I have been diagnosed with T2 diabetes, had the same experience with the educators at the hospital during the course I was subjected to. I did some reading myself and came across the Ketogenic diet (high fat, moderate protein, low carb). In three months my A1C went from 10.5 to 5.5. HDL went from 50 to 80. Triglycerides went from over 100 to 47. Daily glucose readings are well within normal ranges.

    • Thanks for this link. I’m trying to get my parents to stop taking statins. My father says: “I trust my Dr.!” And I never know what to say to that. My dad is going down hill so fast it’s distressing. He used to have a steel trap memory and now he can barley remember what I just said. I’d like to get him to take this study to his Dr. Wish me luck.

      • I wish you much luck. Dealing with an elderly parent is difficult at best. I know because I’m in the throes of it myself.

      • I had luck like this. Agree with them. Don’t be oppositional. Say something like, “Of course you do. We all do. He’s a great doctor.” Then ask “When you think about all the advice he’s ever given you, how would you say it’s worked for you?” Any normal person will have a list of pros but also a few cons. Seize the cons carefully to help sharpen the doubt. Never disparage the doctor – let all the criticism come from your parent. “Yeah, I remember he told you about that one medicine that worked great for you, and then also {insert con}. What were all the problems that {con} caused you?” Continue in this vein. This technique, called Motivational Interviewing, is widely used in medical settings to guide attitude change in a way that lets people see for themselves what the issues are.

  2. Surely it’s no surprise to any knowledgeable person that the DGA guidelines are less than useless and quite driven by political correctness. While the guidelines might go a long way to not give offense, they’ll be busy killing, or at least making absolutely miserable, the uninformed. As a healthcare provider, it’s a long-standing uphill battle counseling patients on good nutrition when our own government is putting out such drek. I can’t fight against the party-line giving patients what they want to hear – to literally have their cake and eat it too! I can only live good nutritional principles encompassed within natural rhythms, and wait for patients to finally come ’round to me with an open mind because they’ve been beaten into willingness as a result of their distress. (“I don’t get it. I followed the guidelines!”) Only then might I make some headway. Thanks Dr Eades for continuing to be the voice of sanity in the midst of such “scientific” madness!

  3. The only soundbite that I wish would come true is the very last one:

    “we need to be a little bit more modest and NOT set strong guidelines for areas that we’re still not certain about”

    That’s all I’ve ever asked of “guidelines”. DON’T say something should or should not be done UNLESS you’re pretty damn sure about it.

    We don’t need 100% absolute gold standard scientific proof because quite frankly that is unlikely to ever happen in the nutrition/health sphere which is ridiculously difficult to make absolute findings, but if there’s very strong causal inference THEN it might be worth considering adding a recommendation.

    Now, if the folk going through the latest guidelines for scientific rigour could consider whether any of the evidence suggests an A-grade level of causal medical inference to any of the following topics, then indeed they should be considered as an addition to any guidelines:

    – cholesterol
    – saturated fat
    – monounsaturated fat
    – polyunsaturated fat
    – fiber
    – grains
    – veggies
    – fruit
    – red meat
    – trans fats
    – eggs
    – nuts
    – seed (“veggie”) oils
    – olive oil
    – alcohol
    – sugar
    – fish
    – salt
    – caffiene
    – aspartame

    etc.

    If anyone feels like going through the above list and ascribing high level evidence of causal inference for either good or bad at given levels to the above then go for it, otherwise any reference to them should either be removed from the guidelines or “be a little bit more modest and NOT set strong guidelines”.

    • The science isn’t everything. I like the simple observation Gary Taubes portrays, when modern man met the natives he brought with him flour and sugar, and along with it disease. I think the science is needed to understand why, but is not necessary to see a ‘truth’ good enough to be useful.

      • I agree, Gary!

        By the way, in the video G. Taubes is named by the narrator as ‘Tawbs’, but unless I’m mistaken his name actually sounds like ‘Towbs’ (closer to what would be the German pronunciation of a German-looking name).

        • Hah! Funny you should bring this up. Gary called me and left a message a couple of days ago. When I called him back, I got his VM (for the first time ever) and heard his voice say I had reached Gary Taubes, pronounced “Tawbs” in his own voice. When I finally got him, I told him I had been mispronouncing his last name for the past 15 or so years that we’ve been friends. (I always pronounce it Towbs, as in, cow.) He told me he pronounces it both ways. So, everyone is correct. 🙂

  4. It truly is amazing how little the “experts” know and how readily they forget what they used to know. (It wasn’t that long ago that we had the obnoxious Zetia commercials showing that we got a lot of cholesterol from our ancestry…)
    Glad to see you back!

  5. You’re right, Dr. Eades, it was not a dark secret by any means (regarding cholesterol) , even then. Nutritional science is notorious for being GARBAGE. I just laugh at it these days. What’s worse are these authoritative political organizations with agenda putting out their crap. We don’t know enough about how nutrients affect cells yet. These people will never admit how deficient theynare and how wrong they got it. If all these suggestions worked we would have gone on through there, as Feynman noted. Feynman was talking about solving new problems in physics and how each breakthrough had a method behind it. None of them will be repeated because if those methods worked , we would have gone on through there as he says. His words can relate to things in biology. Our umderstaning of obesity is beyond poor. None of the common advice works. The reason? LACK OF KNOWLEDGE. When something is physically possible failing to achieve it ismusually a lack of knowledge or resources.

    There really is no genuine science going on in maimstream nutrition. Even physics has its chicanery and political problems. One very good example of this are calorie zealots and their inability to grasp physics. . These nutrional “scientists” simply cannot grasp that energy is a very abstract human mathematical construct with no existence in reality. Energy itself is not anything. It is not something tangible, NOR intangible. It is a,concept ONLY. I cannot stress this point enough (which I learned over the years from by many Ph.D. post docs in physics) to these zealot people. What we are REALLY dealing with regarding our weight, or adding or losing matter- is CARBON FLOW. Carbon ATOMS. NOTHING to do with a non existent thing called calories. Nothing. They do not exist. Fire exists, noses exist in reality etc. Concepts do not. Energy cannot be converted into anything that isn’t energy. No caolric energy is EVER , EVER converted to fat tissue. That (the idea that calories could) WOULD violate conservation of energy. However, we already live in a universe where energy is NOT conserved GLOBALLY, just locally. Many medical doctors, amateur physicists and even seasoned engineers do not understand this about energy. I did not either years ago. There are NO BLOCKS (Dennis The Menace’s toy blocks anaology) as Richard Feynman said. Freeman Dyson, Hawking, Gel Man, Wheeler all of them said the late Feynman was an absolute genius and one of the greatest intellects the never saw, and this is coming from very smart people. The caloroe zealots cannot compete with his intellect. Assigning reality to energy etc. calories, a unit of energy, is not only over the top but totslly incorrect. I think it is looooong time scientists started to adopt that Feynman attitude of “Thinking Like A Martian.”

    From everything from obesity to cholesterol. Where is the underlying physical principle which would EXPLAIN any connection between coronary artery disease and LDL levels? I see it with blood pressure (battering and poumding on walls) and sharp sugar scraping lining etc.
    Ray Davis’ solar neutrino 25 year experimemt was extremely highly correlated to the value of the U.S. stock market. The coorelation coefficient was .95. No scientist ever thought anything of it.

  6. I think this cholesterol “announcement” is just a transparent ploy designed to get more doctors to prescribe statins. If changing the diet doesn’t make a bit of difference, since we make it and it does not come to us via our food clearly we need to lower it with drugs!

  7. I’m a physician with a long-time interest in nutrition, and I too am appalled at how slowly nutritional information spreads, and in what distorted forms. Every single healthcare professional needs to know a lot more than they know now. I do want to point out, however, that this is not easy. I have attended many excellent conferences offering real nutritional information. However, very few of them offer CMEs. This means that I can’t use conference leave to go to them and have to use vacation time, and then spend time at other conferences that do offer CMEs to fulfill my yearly requirement, all of which amounts to a lot of time away from my patients. Realistically, most physicians aren’t going to do this. But there is urgent need for more knowledge and better patient advice, and good conferences that physicians could attend regularly would be an important part of increasing knowledge in the medical community.
    Incidentally, this was brought home to me last year when I was in the hospital for several days after an orthopedic procedure and my surgeon mistakenly ordered a “cardiac diet.” I was served tray after tray of biscuits, mashed potatoes with flour gravy, tiny bits of meat, starchy “fake egg” scrambled eggs, and wilted salads with starch-based fat free dressings. There was always a large dessert. If I did in fact have a cardiac problem and ate these meals, they might well do me in. I did not eat these meals and requested that the order be changed to the ketogenic diet I actually eat, and my surgeon refused to do so because ” that sounds really bad for you.” My husband brought me some food that I could actually eat, which caused consternation among the nurses. “Oh no! Saturated fat on our unit!”

  8. Serum cholesterol numbers are strongly tied to thyroid levels. Low thyroid is a known cause of high blood cholesterol. 80% of people over age 50 have some degree of hypothyroidism due to reduced T4 to T3 conversion. Funny thing, low thyroid is also known to be a cause of insulin resistance.

  9. Hi Dr. Eades,

    I forgot to mention two things:

    Dr. Beatrice Golumb, from UCSD, has excellent video exposing the chicanery of medical journals, the politics, the censorship and intimidating phone falls, loss of careers all verifiable. There were ghostwriiten articles claiming Neuronton is great used off label,for pain. That was totally made up. People would be furious if they knew the truth.

    Second, look into statins being involved in development Parkinson’s Disease and Dr. Xeuimi Huang’s research into this. Twice the risk of developing it followi g 16,000 some people over 20 years. She confirmed previous work.

    Stains have big money-multibillions- behind them. Theyare toxic. Theynhas massive politics behind them too and that gravytrain will never be derailed by honest science.

    Paul Lutus hasmexcellent articles about science and how,pharmacueticalmscience is dubious at best. Imwould rather read Science Fiction than bad science because it is no more likelymto be wrong and is,far more entertaining.

    Wish Imcould link it, but I am on a Tablet. Can’t type on thismdarned thing either. LOL!

    Take care,
    Raz

  10. I’m dying of curiosity: so what was the unexpected and massive public outcry? The “unexpectedly overwhelming response of the public to the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Advisory Report”? Would love to hear!!!

    • When the USDA asked for comments on the DGAC report, they got tens of thousands, whereas when they asked for the same comments in 2010, they got 2,000. You can read about it here.

  11. Dr. Mike,

    I have noticed through the decades that each generation finds something “new”. But what we know is what is “old” becomes new again in each generation. I even see it in the styles today.

    So it doesn’t surprise me that what you were writing in your book twenty odd years ago is becoming new again through someone else’s eyes. It’s just human nature, in time people forget. That is why doctors like yourself must constantly renew yourself, and make yourself known, we all need refresher courses. Why don’t you go on popular TV shows and reinvigorate the new generation with your knowledge?