Last year I read The Smear, a highly illuminating book written by a former CBS reporter named Sharyl Attkinsson. As you may recall, I mentioned her in this post and included a YouTube video of her speaking about fake news. She gave this description of Wikipedia:
Anonymous Wikipedia editors control and co-opt pages on behalf of special interests. They forbid and reverse edits that go against their agenda. They skew and delete information in blatant violation of Wikipedia’s own established policies with impunity.
Yup. Like when, say, a vegan editor starts deleting articles about people and films who say animal fats don’t cause heart disease.
In The Smear, Attkinsson explains that much of what passes for major-media journalism today is nothing more than P.R. designed to promote an agenda. She describes the P.R. techniques, including labeling anyone who disagrees with the agenda as a denier or a conspiracy theorist. When you hear those terms, she explains, you’re supposed to just stop thinking about the issue.
Oh, he’s a denier, so he must be wrong. The media says this is a conspiracy theory, so there’s nothing to it.
Just one little problem: throwing around those terms isn’t an argument. It’s not a rebuttal. It doesn’t prove diddly. If CNN says leprechauns are changing votes in voting machines, and I say that can’t happen because leprechauns don’t exist, I may be a DENIER! — but I also happen to be right. If a bunch of tobacco executives testify before Congress that nicotine isn’t addictive, and I say they’ve buried research showing that nicotine is highly addictive, I may be a CONSPIRACY THEORIST! — but I also happen to be right.
When you hear DENIER, you are of course supposed to immediately equate the contrarian with a Holocaust denier. Denier? Has to be kook. Ignore and move on …
So it’s no surprise that defenders of the arterycloggingsaturatedfat! theory have taken to using the terms cholesterol deniers and statin deniers. Here’s an example from an article in The Guardian:
A group of scientists has been challenging everything we know about cholesterol, saying we should eat fat and stop taking statins. This is not just bad science – it will cost lives, say experts.
Wait, timeout. I’ve pointed this out before, but it’s worth mentioning again: whenever a media article includes phrases like say experts, or experts say, or the experts believe, you’re looking at an agenda-driven, biased article. The accurate statement on any controversial issue is some experts say. And of course, other experts disagree. Experts say in an article means this is what I, the reporter, believe and want you to believe as well.
According to a small group of dissident scientists, whose work usually first appears in minor medical journals, by far the greatest threat to our hearts and vascular systems comes from sugar, while saturated fat has been wrongly demonised. And because cholesterol levels don’t matter, they argue, we don’t need the statins that millions have been prescribed to lower them. A high-fat diet is the secret to a healthy life, they say. Enjoy your butter and other animal fats. Cheese is great. Meat is back on the menu.
Heh-heh … notice how she was careful to tells us the dissidents are people whose work usually first appears in minor medical journals.
This is more than bad science, according to leading scientists and medical authorities. It will cost lives. “Encouraging people to eat more saturated fat is dangerous and irresponsible,” is a typical verdict, in this case from Prof Louis Levy, the head of nutrition science at Public Health England (PHE).
Leading scientists and medical authorities … in other words, experts say. And of course, you’re going to tell us exactly why the science is bad, right?
The advice from PHE, the World Health Organization, the British Heart Foundation (BHF), Heart UK and other institutions and top academics is consistent. Butter and cheese may be fine in modest amounts in a balanced diet, but the saturated fat that they contain is potentially risky.
Well, there’s your proof. The organizations that have been preaching arterycloggingsaturatedfat! for decades still do so – as opposed to committing organizational suicide by admitting they’ve been giving incorrect and possibly harmful advice. I’m convinced.
When it comes to statins, there is a huge database of research. Since 1994, the Nuffield department of population health at Oxford University, led by two eminent epidemiologists, Collins and Prof Richard Peto, has been amassing and analysing the data in order to figure out how well they work in preventing heart attacks and strokes.
They have published many papers. In 2016, in a major review in the Lancet, they concluded that lowering cholesterol over five years with a cheap daily statin would prevent 1,000 heart attacks, strokes and coronary artery bypasses among 10,000 people who had already had one.
I see. A paper was published in a medical journal saying statins are wunnerful, wunnerful and save lives. So it has to be true. And yet …
Last week’s letter of complaint asked Dr Fiona Godlee, the editor-in-chief of the BMJ, which publishes the British Journal of Sports Medicine, to intervene, saying the journal had run 10 pieces advocating low-carb diets and criticising statins in the past three years and that the reluctance to run the rebuttal showed a bias and lack of transparency.
Wait, you mean a different medical published articles criticizing statins? Hmmm, let’s do the math … a medical journal praises statins … another medical journal criticizes statins … divide by pi … carry the one … okay, I have the answer: the editors of the medical journal that criticized statins are DENIERS!
That’s the apparent (ahem) “logic” of the article. It’s nothing more than hit piece devoid of any actual logic.
Fortunately, the Wisdom of Crowds has been kicking in, whether the statinators like it or not. Check out this article in Science Daily:
A new study has found that patients with atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease cut their risk of a second major adverse cardiovascular event by almost 50 percent, if they adhere to taking a statin medication as prescribed by their doctors.
Wait, timeout. I have my doubts about how they came up with that 50 percent figure, but here’s the phrase that caught my attention: cut their risk of a second major adverse cardiovascular event. That means this study was of people who’d already had a cardiovascular event. To the very slight degree that statins work, they work better in people who already have heart disease.
I’ve mentioned the site called TheNNT, which is maintained by doctors to help other doctors evaluate the effectiveness and side effects of drugs. According to that site, among people who don’t already have existing heart disease and take statins for five years:
- One in 104 will avoid a heart attack, but
- No lives will be saved
In other words, the statin will prevent one non-fatal heart attack for every 104 people who take the drug.
Among people who have existing heart disease and take statins for five years:
- One in 83 will avoid a fatal heart attack
- One in 39 will avoid a non-fatal heart attack
- One in 125 will avoid a stroke
In that major review in the Lancet, statinators Collins and Peto claim statins would prevent 1,000 strokes and heart attacks for every 10,000 people who take them. That’s one in 10. Look at those numbers from TheNNT again and tell me how that’s possible.
And keep in mind, the figures cited on TheNNT were compiled from the studies that were published. As we all know, drug companies used to just bury the studies they didn’t like. Now they have register their clinical trials ahead of time.
Anyway, back to the Science Direct article:
While that’s good news for patients, the bad news, however, is that researchers from the Intermountain Healthcare Heart Institute in Salt Lake City found that only about six percent of patients are in fact following the statin regimen given to them to lower their cholesterol, negating any potential cardiovascular benefits.
Only six percent of people prescribed statins are taking them as directed? Why would people stop taking such a wunnerful, wunnerful drug?
Researchers also found that 25 percent of patients never filled their statin prescription in the first place, and 25 percent didn’t fill their second one.
Again, why in the heck would so many people quit this wunnerful, wunnerful drug after just one prescription?
This article from Healthline about the same study offers some clues:
No drug comes without potential side effects, but the most frequent one experienced with statins is reasonably minor compared to the risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
“Myopathy, which is muscle weakness, is the most frequently reported complaint, and severe myopathy (rhabdomyolysis) only occurs in about 1 in 10,000 patients,” Dr. Victoria Shin, a cardiologist with Torrance Memorial Medical Center in California, told Healthline.
That figure is, of course, absolute poppycock. One in 10,000? According to TheNNT (again, using figures from the studies that were actually published), one in 10 people who take statins for five years are harmed by muscle damage. Not a bit of weakness. Actual damage. So Dr. Shin is only off by a factor of 1,000.
I recently watched an excellent Netflix series titled The Pharmacist, about a pharmacist (duh) who began raising hell about the opioid crisis and pill mills nearly 20 years ago. In one episode, we learn that Purdue Pharma, the makers of OxyContin, insisted that less than one percent of people taking the drug become addicted. I’m sure they had (ahem) “research” to back that claim. But does anyone believe that figure is even remotely accurate? OxyContin didn’t become known as Hillbilly Heroin, with a huge trade on the black market, because only one percent became addicted.
The percentage of side effects reported by Big Pharma in their own trials are pure fiction. See if you can find 10 friends or relatives who’ve tried statins. I’ll bet you dollars to donuts (and you can keep the donuts) at least three of them experienced muscle pain and weakness. In fact, I recently came across this study of statin side effects:
AIM: We investigated the incidence of adverse drug reactions (ADRs) in patients treated with statins for cardiovascular (CV) risk among the United Arab Emirates (UAE) population.
CONCLUSION: The incidence of ADRs among statin users was 42.6%, and frequent ADRs (49%) were noted in patients with high CVD risk.
Hmm, let’s see … in pharma-sponsored research, the most frequent side effect is muscle weakness, but by gosh, it only happens in 1 in 10,000 patients. (Well, severe myopathy, anyway. How weak and sore do you have to get before they label it severe?) Meanwhile, in a study published just this year, 42.6% of people taking statins reported adverse drug reactions.
And it’s not just muscle pain and weakness. Here are some quotes from a recent article on the BBC news site:
“Patient Five” was in his late 50s when a trip to the doctors changed his life. He had diabetes, and he had signed up for a study to see if taking a “statin” – a kind of cholesterol-lowering drug – might help. So far, so normal.
But soon after he began the treatment, his wife began to notice a sinister transformation. A previously reasonable man, he became explosively angry and – out of nowhere – developed a tendency for road rage.
Then one day, Patient Five had an epiphany. “He was like, ‘Wow, it really seems that these problems started when I enrolled in this study’,” says Beatrice Golomb, who leads a research group at the University of California, San Diego.
Dr. Golomb, by the way, has been running her own research on statin side effects. She says the incidence of side effects is waaaaay higher than one percent, or five percent, or whatever the latest nonsense figure promoted by Big Pharma is.
Over the years, Golomb has collected reports from patients across the United States – tales of broken marriages, destroyed careers, and a surprising number of men who have come unnervingly close to murdering their wives. In almost every case, the symptoms began when they started taking statins, then promptly returned to normal when they stopped; one man repeated this cycle five times before he realised what was going on.
I hope he didn’t kill five wives before figuring it out. Now I’m wondering if Henry VIII was taking statins back in the day.
According to Golomb, this is typical – in her experience, most patients struggle to recognise their own behavioural changes, let alone connect them to their medication. In some instances, the realisation comes too late: the researcher was contacted by the families of a number of people, including an internationally renowned scientist and a former editor of a legal publication, who took their own lives.
Why are so few people actually following their doctors’ orders to take those wunnerful, wunnerful statins?
Because in the internet age, people experiencing the nasty side effects of statins can go online and find out yes, the statin is to blame. Back when my mom had joint and muscle pains from taking a statin, she didn’t know statins were the cause. (Neither did her doctor, who simply prescribed pain pills.) Nowadays she, or someone she knows, would likely learn online that statins cause muscle and joint pains. People share articles like the one above on Twitter, Facebook, etc. The Wisdom of Crowds does what it does.
The statinators want us to remain ignorant and dutifully take the drug. Sorry, but that’s not going to happen. There’s no stopping or denying the Wisdom of Crowds … even if we’re a bunch of DENIERS!
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Love the clear thinking on so many bogus ideas/techniques, practices, etc.
Nice to have it wrapped in humor too.
Thanks for this wonderful service Tom.
Thanks for reading.
The lives broken or destroyed by statins (for the most part taken needlessly) is simply tragic. When they tried to pressure me to take one last year, I resisted with every resource available to me. They backed down, somewhat condescendingly, but it was a splintering of the trust in the relationship, on both sides.
Fortunately, my doctor was cool about it. I simply said I will never take a statin, period, and he let it go at that.
I went for a check up in November and had labs taken. My total cholesterol was 245, down from 330 just 2 years ago. My HDL was perfect. My Trigs were perfect. VLDL was perfect. LDL a little high. Ratio HDL/Trigs was excellent. The physician’s assistant asked, “So, you wouldn’t be interested in taking something to bring down your high cholesterol?”
ME: My HDL is perfect. My Trigs are perfect. VLDL is perfect. The Ratio HDL/Trigs is excellent. My total cholesterol dropped almost 100 points in 2 years without a statin.
She pressed no further.
Me too. Back when i read your blog, Tom, and the wonderful Wheat Belly and a couple of other things, i warned my sibling about statins.
Fortunately he was able to refuse unequivocally his doctor’s advice to go on statins!
When the phrase “according to the experts” is mentioned in a news article, I immediately become suspicious. This is the classic “appeal to authority” fallacy. Often these reports turn out to be dead wrong. Back in 2008, when gas was $4.00 a gallon and over in some places, there were “experts” all over the news saying we were running out of oil. Fast forward to 2020, gas is below $2.00 a gallon in areas here in Alabama. Same thing goes with the global warmers. According to them, the Earth is getting dangerously warm and humans with their evil internal combustion engine powered vehicles are causing it. Greta Thunberg, the 16 year old climate “expert” is shaking her finger and screaming “How dare you!” I saw the funniest thing in my Facebook page, an electric car charging stand powered by a diesel generator. Perfect demonstration of the futility of electric cars. Where do they think the electricity comes from? When the Grand Plan fails, the Anointed never admit being wrong.
I’ve seen Greta in a press conference where she was left to her own devices. When asked questions that she was not prepared or prepped to answer, she talked in circles and just told the reporters to ask other people on stage those questions. She’s totally different when they words aren’t written for her.
Yup, I figured the “teenage activist” is nothing more than a mouthpiece for her parents.
“Let me tell you that your wrong about global warming because of X reason, and then denigrate an associated character I disapprove of because I don’t want to provide an alternate reason because I don’t have one”
“They say the recession is coming, but they’ve been saying that for a while so therefore it isn’t happening or going to happen”
Bring your standards up to quote peer reviewed articles if you’re going to bring denial crap here. If you are agruing about evidence based problems, then bring evidence, this is not philosophy, this is science.
(BTW I also don’t feel like bringing evidence to prove that climate change is a thing because I don’t feel like it, I would rather point out the flaws in your argument instead)
Wackypedia has deleted you, Jimmy Moore, and Malcolm Kendrick, and has an entry on Michael Eades that sounds like it was written vegan high school girl. Maybe someone will come along and create an encyclopedia that’s more objective, in a written format that can’t be edited on a whim.
Most of the arguments made my vegans sound like they’re coming from high-schools girls. All emotion.
I just googled to see if you were still deleted from Wikipedia, and noticed there was an article about you on a site called “RationalWiki,” so I checked it out. It leads of with “Tom Naughton (1958–) is an American low-carb high-fat (LCHF) author, comedian, cholesterol denialist, conspiracy theorist and film-maker.” Goes downhill from there, with some uncomplimentary adjectives. This site isn’t any kinder to Gary Taubes, Aseem Malhotra, Marika Sboros, or Malcolm Kendrick. Whatever RationalWiki is, reason is not involved. Wikipedia has an interesting article on RationalWiki.
I’ve never heard of RationalWiki, which is probably what it deserves.
Whatever site is established, ultimately the political pushers will end up toxifying it. 🙁
It’s kind of like quackwatch.com, but nerdier. In case you don’t know what the mainstream, corporate position on something is, they’re there to tell you. Like some of the stuff on quackwatch, I suspect parts of that site won’t age well. The founder of quackwatch wrote a book with a picture of wheat on the cover. Oops.
I find your statistics about compliance interesting, especially compared to the reported annual sales of these drugs. Some people must be spending a whole lot of money on their drugs.
Hi Bid Now; from talking to friends and acquaintances, seems folks don’t take all their pills; but are too afraid to tell their doctors of the issues; or also: their doctors don’t listen and tell them they will “die” if they don’t take the pills; so either way, not too much free and open communication; not too much “partnership”. Let eminence-based practice rule!!
As one commenter wrote on a blog post: if statin side effects are as rare as Collins et al say then the people with the side effects must all be living in his neighbourhood and he knows them all!
Add in the people who are having muscle pains, poor memory etc and haven’t connected them with the statin – the doctor tells them “you’re just getting old” – and you get a whole lot more side effects than are officially reported.
They have it all wrong with the label “cholesterol denier.” The true cholesterol deniers are those that deny how healthy cholesterol is; they deny it’s myriad benefits and role in sustaining life. Someone who thinks statins are good for primary prevention (for example): that’s a cholesterol denier.
I work with a lot of people over 60 and I suffer daily with their inability to remember things, mood swings, and general strange behavior – which I know is caused by statins. Think about this… some of the most powerful people in the world right now, judges, congressional leaders, state officials, military leaders are all under the influence of a drug that leads to forgetfulness and personality changes. Does it now make sense why the world is so messed up? Thankfully many younger people are refusing statins. Let’s just hope the statin pushers don’t kill us all before they die off.