Huh? Why would you want to do that?
Well, the short answer is that it very well might lengthen your life. Let's have a go at Dr. Malcolm Kendrick, MD.
When I went to medical school I was told that the very high rate of heart disease in Scotland was caused by a diet containing far too much saturated fat. This raised our Scottish cholesterol levels. The excess cholesterol was, in turn, deposited in the artery walls, thus narrowing them to the point where they blocked up – causing angina, heart attacks and death.
The answer, therefore, to preventing heart disease was to eat less saturated fat, thus lowering cholesterol levels. Or, if you couldn't get people to eat less fat, then simply lower cholesterol level with drugs. It all seemed very simple and exceedingly straightfoward. Why look anywhere else, when the answer was clear.
Uh, OK, so why raise cholesterol? He continues.
For years I did not question this orthodoxy. Then, one day, I was on holiday in France. Whilst chewing on a fatty steak, dripping in butter, it suddenly struck me that the French ate rather a lot of saturated fat. As I peered through the smoke filled restaurant I also recognised that they smoked quite a bit too. However, their rate of heart disease was one tenth that of Scotland (age and sex-matched).
I then looked at the other classic ‘risk factors' for heart disease in France e.g. blood pressure, HDL ‘good cholesterol' levels, body mass index (BMI), amount of exercise taken. I found that, in comparison to the Scots, the French ate significantly more saturated fat, had the same cholesterol levels, the same blood pressure and the same HDL ‘good cholesterol' levels. They also had the same average BMI and took slightly less exercise (on average). They smoked considerably more. In short, much worse classical ‘risk factors,' one tenth the rate of heart disease.
This became the basis of the "French Paradox." I lived, worked, and ate in France for two years in the early 90s and can surely attest to the good eats, by which I mean: fat, fat, and more fat. People tend to think the French are famous for their bread and wine, which they are, but they consume much less of it than most people think. As I showed here, the proportion of bread to cheese is the reverse of what it is here and elsewhere. Rather than spreading a little cheese on a lot of bread, you place a huge gob of cheese (and butter too) on a small piece of crust. About the only time I saw the French eat quite a bit of bread was petit dejeuner (breakfast). Back to Kendrick.
So, the soon to be Professor, Hugh Tunstall-Pedoe looked at the French, and their diet, and came to the conclusion that the French were protected against heart disease by their high consumption of garlic, red-wine and lightly cooked vegetables (full of anti-oxidants, don't you know). Very soon after this, it became a ‘fact' that these three factors were protective against heart disease.
One slight problem is that there never was, and still is not, the slightest evidence that any of these three factors provides any protection. I write this in the certain knowledge that many of you are absolutely convinced that garlic, red-wine and anti-oxidants truly are protective, and that many studies have proved it. To which I would say….. ‘show me the studies'.
And now comes the punch line. What do the studies actually show?
To give another example of facts that aren't true. Namely, that saturated fat intake raises cholesterol levels. The Framingham study, the longest lasting, most respected study into the causes of heart disease (started in 1948) reported that ‘In Framingham, Massachusetts, the more saturated fat one ate, the more cholesterol one ate, the more calories one ate, the lower people's serum cholesterol.' Dr William Castelli – director of the Framingham study at the time – 1992.
That's bad, you see. You don't want your cholestrol levels decreasing (as they typically do with age). You want to keep them "elevated." Here's why.
For example, here is another quote from the Framingham study on the impact of cholesterol levels themselves. There is a direct association between falling cholesterol levels over the first 14 years of the study and mortality over the following 18 years. 11% overall and 14% CVD death rate increase per 1mg/dl per year drop in cholesterol levels.
In short, once your cholesterol level starts to fall, you are much more likely to die from heart disease. A 150% increase in relative risk for every 10 % fall, approximately. Add this to another very big study of the elderly, published in the Lancet: Our data accord with previous findings of increased mortality in elderly people with low serum cholesterol levels, and show that long term persistence of low cholesterol concentration actually increases the risk of death. Thus, the earlier that patients start to have lower cholesterol concentrations the greater the risk of death.
It's only a matter of time.
It is a slight comfort to know that in fifty years (hopefully many fewer than this), people will look back at cholesterol lowering and say ‘You did WHAT?' Were you MAD? Don't you know that cholesterol is absolutely vital for human health? Didn't you realise that blocking cholesterol synthesis would directly lead to nerve cell damage, muscle destruction, liver obliteration and cancer?
So, how do you raise your cholesterol to adequate, healthful levels, for which I believe — as shown in these graphs based on data from four governmental databases worldwide — is 200-220?
Eat healthful fats, and lots of them: butter, ghee, coconut oil, coconut milk, cream (preferably from pastured cows), quality real cheeses, and of course all the animal fat you can get your hands on, along with the meat. Yep, especially the chicken skin.
For more information on Dr. Malcolm Kendrick's views on cholesterol, see The Great Cholesterol Con: The Truth About What Really Causes Heart Disease and How to Avoid It. Here is a great primer by the doctor that's a must read: The Great Cholesterol Myth.