The Cholesterol Wars, 1: Intro

Before I can continue telling the Bill Lands story (see Who Is Bill Lands and Why Would Anyone Care?, 1: Intro), I think I have to digress into cholesterol and politics. In case it’s escaped your notice, there’s a huge war raging out there. The battle is for your dollars (to the victor go the spoils!) and for your heart (may the righteous prevail!). The opposing forces can be roughly characterized (alternately) as:     

  • vegan / animal rights activist — vs — carnivore
  • conventional medicine — vs — skeptic / alternative medicine
  • low fat diet — vs — low carb diet
  • liberal — vs — conservative
  • sweetner / seed oil / processed foods industry — vs — meat/dairy industry
  • Big Pharma — vs — Nutritional $upplement industry

although there’s some of us here (myself included) with nothing to sell – either ideologically or monetarily. We just want the truth, for whatever reason, be it in search of personal health, intellectual honesty, intolerance for cognitive dissonance, … whatever.

It’d be hilarious, really, what with all the name-calling, vilification and drama, if it weren’t so unfortunate for those of us with actual, real life health issues that we want to address, but haven’t a clue as to where to truth resides. This has definitely been my pursuit over the last few years. Yes, those of my male relatives who are about my age have been dropping with alarming regularity lately, and, yes, I really want to get this right. I have two daughters that still need me, a hot, young(er) wife and life is good!

Agendas, Agendas, and more Agendas

For those in the first six groups bullet’d above who have taken sides in the serious ideological  warfare, all I can say is beware when you read their stuff. Although truth is truth no matter who’s telling it, know that they will spin it with a slant at best and, at worse, downright lie, cheat, misrepresent – you get the picture. So, the first thing you have to do when reading controversial stuff is be aware that it’s controversial and identify potential conflicts of interest; the conflict being between personal gain and pursuit of the truth.

Obviously, everyone has ulterior motives for everything they do; you will not find purity anywhere. But that’s why god/evolution gave us brains, right? 😉 In the end, it’s really no different than what you’d have to do if you were on a jury. In that case, you know the prosecution and the defense are gonna have very different stories. You would probably have to assume each is presenting only the evidence that will either damn the other side or exonerate their client, with the real truth somewhere in between, or maybe as yet to be discovered! So the second thing you have  to do is be the impartial judge and jury. Examine the evidence and be on guard for foul play. And of course, just because someone stands to gain when you buy into their story, doesn’t automatically make them dishonest nor does it necessarily make their story any less true.

And finally, look to yourself to keep an open mind and beware of your own confirmation bias. We’re all invested in being right and convinced of our own intellectual adequacy. It’s insidious! But let’s not forget humility and the ability to admit we’re wrong when we’ve been backed into a corner and have no other choice when new information comes along. 😀

Cholesterol: Demon or Savior?

One of my early memories is from about 60 years ago. I was five or six or something like that. My grandfather had just suffered a massive coronary and was abruptly snuffed out of existence. My grandmother was in agony, crying, telling us that the doctor told her that she had killed him with eggs. Tearfully, she said, she had gotten up out of bed in the early dawn, every morning for the last umpty years to fry two eggs over-easy for him. She thought she was sending him off with a good breakfast, but really she was just sending him to his grave. All she could say was, I didn’t know, I didn’t know! It broke my heart to hear her.

So what is the truth today? Was it a good breakfast or was it the devil in disguise? Do we know or do we not know? If you read the blogs at the spectrum extremes, you might come away convinced of one or the other. But, let’s look at the whole story and try to determine where we stand on this. And make no mistake, there is good reason for controversy: the stakes are astronomically high: as of a year ago, 20 million Americans were on statins, total sales for Lipitor alone were $130 billion, and yet only just last year, it was revealed that statins are associated with an increased risk for diabetes.

… to be continued.

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About Dan Hunter

Retired software engineer wading through the obfuscation, confusion and contradiction that corporate and political funding of medical research along with ego over science has created.
This entry was posted in Cholesterol, Nutrition and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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