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Careful with those statins – ‘bad’ cholesterol helps us live longer

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The over-60s who have the highest levels of LDL cholesterol are less likely to develop fatal diseases, such as cancer, respiratory and gastrointestinal problems – and heart disease, the very thing it’s supposed to cause.

This is because medicine completely misunderstands the function of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. Far from being an artery-clogging fat, it seems to counter micro-organisms that can cause these fatal diseases, says a group of 17 scientists from a range of medical and academic institutions, including Harvard Medical School.

They assessed the mortality and LDL cholesterol levels of 68,096 people aged over 60, and discovered that 80 per cent of those living the longest also had the highest levels of LDL cholesterol. Conversely, those with the lowest levels were far more likely to die prematurely.

There is an association between total cholesterol levels and heart disease among younger people, the researchers concede, but the balance tilts the other way once someone reaches the age of 60, the very time when public health policy dictates that statins should be taken as a routine ‘just-in-case’ protection against heart disease.

(Source: BMJ Open, 2016; 6: e010401)

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Article Topics: cholesterol, medicine
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