Last week Lipitor went off patent and FDA approved production of a generic version of the drug. The story got a lot of play in the media, perhaps in part because at $81 billion in sales since 1997, Lipitor is the top-selling drug of all time. Seriously, read that again. The top-selling drug of all time is a drug intended to lower your cholesterol. At peak sales, it is estimated that 11 million Americans were taking Lipitor. So, there apparently are a large number of Americans who have been advised to lower their cholesterol levels. Let’s see if we can help. In the spirit of going generic, we’re gonna keep this very simple.
Study #1. Consuming corn (read: vegetable) oil increases your risk of having a heart attack. This is the verbatim summary of the study from the paper itself (you can access the paper in its entirety here): “Eighty patients with ischaemic heart disease were allocated randomly to three treatment groups. The first was a control group. The second received a supplement of olive oil with restriction of animal fat. The third received corn oil with restriction of animal fat. The serum-cholesterol levels fell in the corn-oil group, but by the end of two years the proportions of patients remaining alive and free of reinfarction (fatal or non-fatal) were 75 %, 57 %, and 52 % in the three groups respectively. The likelihood that the worse experience of the patients treated with corn oil was due to chance alone was 0.05-0.1. The likelihood that the trial failed by chance to detect a true and important benefit from corn oil was extremely remote. It is concluded that under the circumstances of this trial corn oil cannot be recommended in the treatment of ischaemic heart disease.”
So, what this is saying is that in patients at risk of heart attack, corn oil lowered cholesterol, but increased the risk of heart attack! The authors obviously conclude that corn oil cannot be used to treat those at risk of heart attack. Another thing that might surprise you about this paper - it was published in 1965.
Study #2. A Paleolithic diet decreases cardiovascular risk factors. This summary is taken from the abstract of the paper (again, you can access the entire paper here): In a randomized cross-over study (this means that everyone in the study tried both diets, but some tried one diet first and others tried the second diet first), 13 patients with type 2 diabetes, 3 women and 10 men, were instructed to eat a Paleolithic diet based on lean meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, root vegetables, eggs and nuts; and a Diabetes diet designed in accordance with dietary guidelines during two consecutive 3-month periods. Compared to the diabetes diet, the Paleolithic diet resulted in lower mean values of HbA1c (-0.4% units, p = 0.01), triacylglycerol (-0.4 mmol/L, p = 0.003), diastolic blood pressure (-4 mmHg, p = 0.03), weight (-3 kg, p = 0.01), BMI (-1 kg/m2, p = 0.04) and waist circumference (-4 cm, p = 0.02), and higher mean values of high density lipoprotein cholesterol (+0.08 mmol/L, p = 0.03).
The authors conclude, “Over a 3-month study period, a Paleolithic diet improved glycemic control and several cardiovascular risk factors compared to a Diabetes diet in patients with type 2 diabetes.”
So, Lipitor is now off patent. If you or someone you know takes Lipitor, you might think about assessing how much of the oil that you (or they) eat comes from sources (corn, vegetable, canola, peanut) that we have known to be toxic since 1965. In contrast, how much of the oil and fat that you (or they) eat comes from sources such as oily fish, coconut, and grass-fed meats? Just think about how many millions of Americans might be able to improve their health and their lives by using this information to change their diets.
Now that has blockbuster written all over it.