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Forget cholesterol: it wasn't the bad guy after all
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Want to protect your heart and arteries? Then forget cholesterol; it is almost certainly one of the great myths of 20th-century medicine

Want to protect your heart and arteries? Then forget cholesterol; it is almost certainly one of the great myths of 20th-century medicine.

As Dr Mathias Rath said in an earlier E-news, anticholesterol drugs have been a great way for the pharmaceuticals to boost an already burgeoning profit line, but they won't do much for your health.

Instead, the evidence is pointing more and more to homocysteine, an amino acid that occurs naturally with the breakdown of protein.

New research from the prestigious Framingham Heart Study has confirmed this once maverick view, first put forward by Dr Kilmer McCully.

Researchers studied the records of 2,491 adults with an average age of 72 who had no previous heart problems - and found that the first heart attack was closely linked to high levels of homocysteine. The link was more evident in women, the researchers found.

A high homocysteine level is a good predictor of a heart attack, the researchers conclude.

Cholesterol-lowering drugs remain the most frequently prescribed class of any drug in the world, so the pharmaceuticals are unlikely to be in the vanguard of any further research.

Not that they really need to be. There's plenty of earlier research that supports the Framingham conclusion. Dr McCully took his lead from victims of homocysteinuria, a rare genetic disease where the liver is unable to dispose of homocysteine. As a result, the victim can die from blood clots in the brain, heart and kidneys. The arteries are also abnormal, and tend to harden and lose their elasticity.

Normally, homocysteine is converted to methionine, an amino acid found in all proteins. But this complicated process needs vitamin B12 and folic acid. McCully concluded our diets needed to be high in B12 and folic acid (and he added B6 to the list) to ensure a healthy cardiovascular system.

So take your Bs, not anticholesterol drugs.

(Source: Journal of the American Medical Association, 2003; 289: 1251-1257).


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