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Cholesterol, Causality and Egg McMuffins

Last night on the national news there was a story about how while statin drugs do indeed lower cholesterol, it is unclear as to if they decrease the risk of heart disease. Since 18 million people take statin drugs and it is a $21 Billion industry for the drug companies, this is worth a second look.

Why is this news? As I’ve been arguing for years, while there is a correlation between cholesterol and heart disease, no one has established causality. Let’s review: correlation means that when you see heart disease, you usually also see high cholesterol. Causality means that high cholesterol causes heart disease; this has not proven to be the case. They are different concepts and important to keep straight, particularly when it comes to understanding the hype put out by the drug companies.

It seems many people have been put on statin drugs to reduce their cholesterol even when they have no other risk factors for heart disease (previous heart attacks, family history, etc.). Now, on the national level doctors are questioning if these people are being unnecessarily medicated. My answer: most definitely! The CBS Evening News report last night recommended that people who are not high risk cease taking statin drugs. Hooray!! Finally, someone is thinking about health and not just profits.

There’s been so much demonification (is that a word?) of cholesterol lately that we forget why our body makes cholesterol in the first place: to help our bodies function. Cholesterol forms cell membranes, is necessary for some hormones and is needed for other functions. Too little cholesterol can mess with our hormonal balance and land us with psychiatric diagnoses, unexplained malaise or exhaustion, and lower cognitive functions.

So, while the Associated Press trumpeted that the average cholesterol is lowest in 50 years due to statin usage (12/13/07), I would argue that this is a meaningless indicator, showing, if anything, the over-Egg McMuffinmedication of our society.

So, eat those eggs: they are one of nature’s most perfect foods! One of my favorite recipes: Egg McMuffin. Here’s how to do it:

Spray the inside of a ceramic mug with vegetable spray (if you miss this step, cleaning will be very difficult!). Crack an egg inside the mug and beat it with a fork. Put the mug in the microwave for about 1:05 (every microwave will be different, but you should see the egg puff up over the top). Slide the finished egg onto a toasted whole grain english muffin slathered with mustard. I added baby Romaine lettuce to mine today. Voila! A quick and easy breakfast you can make to-go!

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