12.07.2006

The cholesterol conundrum

Pfizer has halted clinical trials of its new cholesterol medication, which was designed to increase HDL ("good") cholesterol levels in human blood. The hope: to get everyone on the planet to take a statin/torcetrapib combination and get everyone's cholesterol numbers into a "happy" testing range. Turns out the torcetrapib actually increases one's chances of dying. So Pfizer pulled the plug (at least they had the decency to do that, unlike Merck's Vioxx fiasco).
I have two main problems with the line of research pharmaceutical companies are pursuing regarding cholesterol. First off, why not consider a combination of herbal therapies, perhaps featuring Fenugreek (Trigonella faenum-graecum) along with other botanicals, which have not only been proven to lower LDL cholesterol, raise HDL, but also manage blood sugar, improve and soothe digestive function, and actually enhance life? Lack of patentability would be my first guess.
Secondly, the whole approach of attempting to alter serum levels of cholesterol and their lipoprotein packages seems like "teaching to the test" rather than trying to improve final outcomes. Sure, high cholesterol levels seem to be present when there is dangerous heart disease. But I haven't yet found conclusive evidence that there is a causal relationship between the two, and I am beginning to suspect that underlying cardiovascular inflammation is at the root of both conditions. It would seem that devising new drugs that are specific only for improving your cholesterol numbers on a blood test misses the point and can, apperently, be quite dangerous. My humble suggestion: if you and/or your doctor are concerned about high cholesterol levels, consider herbal therapy alongside nutritional intervention. There's a great track record out there, with no increased mortality risk.

3 comments:

Eric Yang said...

Thanks for your educational posts. I was wondering if you might know anything about burdock? Is it true that it could help clear acne? I've been drinking "Detox Tea" with burdock in it.

guido said...

Burdock root can be helpful, it's a good place to start but I've found it doesn't work for everyone. Dry skin and difficulty perspiring can be specific indications for this root. More oily skin would call for Mahonia, a.k.a. Oregon grape root.
Acne's a tough one. Many different influences (hormonal, liver, etc...) are at work. Good luck.

katja said...

for reference, http://www.thincs.org/ is a good site, and the book The Cholesterol Myths by Uffe Ravnskov is also good. the take-home lessons from both seemed to be: cholesterol is like white blood cells. if you have elevated white blood cell count, you don't take a drug to reduce the white blood cell count, you figure out why you're sick. so it's not so much any given stable level (assuming normal background factors) that is or is not of concern, but a sudden spike (or decrease) in that level that is worth watching.
the website seems to have grown significantly over the last year or so, so i'd like to go back and see what types of therapy they're advocating for places where intervention is advised (since a lot of the scientists involved are european, i have hope for non-drug advice).