The American diet is a mess. Look at a typical nutrition guide: 85 percent of food offers nothing substantive beyond sodium and calories. Moderation is not enough. With soybean oil as cheap as can be, processed foods are chock-full of its inflammatory omega 6 oil. Even oils which start out healthy are often hydrogenated to extend their shelf-life. What used to be healthy to eat 100 years ago is now produced via chemistry experiment.

With otherwise healthy food being rendered unhealthy, the food and drug lobbies have seized the opportunity to cherry-pick data and direct us to wrongly wage a war against real food, while recommending ineffective solutions to the wrong problems. Enter: statins, a class of drugs used to manage cholesterol levels. They have become a $25 billion business, but are they any good?

While reading studies on statins, I noticed something suspicious. When they speak of benefits, the results are stated in term of “relative risk.” When they speak of side-effects, the terms are changed to “real risk.” Not comparing apples to apples is a big red flag.

The JUPITER study (Justification for the Use of Statins in Prevention: an Intervention Trial Evaluating Rosuvastatin) examined 17,802 people, half were placed on a statin, half on a placebo. There were 31 Myocardial Infarctions, or, MIs (what we all know as heart attacks), in the statin group, and 68 in the placebo group. The study then claims a “relative risk reduction” in MIs of 58 percent. Note that the frame of reference for the reduction is only those who suffered an MI. That is to say, the reduction of 37 MIs is divided only by the 68 members in the placebo group. This is not a legitimate way to process this data. In real terms, the reduction of 37 MIs is out of the entire 8,901 people who took the drug. If the frame of reference is every prescription taker, then the change in the rate of MIs go from 0.40 percent per year in the placebo group, to 0.18 percent in the statin taking group. That is a real reduction of MIs among the statin takers of only 0.215 percent per year, not 58 percent.

This study showed an increase in diabetes among those taking the statins, but those results, “were not adjudicated.” Of the 8,901 of participants who took the drug, 270 developed diabetes in 1.9 years. Of the 8,901 of participants who took the placebo, 216 developed diabetes. The increase of 54 cases of diabetes out of the 8,901 statin takers represents a 0.32 percent increase in real risk every year. So the self-same study which concludes that a 0.215 percent reduction in MI is very meaningful, and therefore recommends that statins be prescribed, also claims that the observed .0.32 percent increase in diabetes is not worth considering. This is the reason the study writers needed to change the methodology. They needed to hide the ineffectiveness of statins. If we compare the results only to those who developed diabetes in the placebo group, in the same way the studies did when they were trying to sell the product, the increase in the instance of diabetes in the statin takers would be 20 percent!

The IMPROVE-IT study (Improved Reduction of Outcomes: Vytorin Efficacy of Outcomes: Vytorin Efficacy International Trial) showed a 0.30 percent real reduction in MIs per year. Therefore it takes one person taking a statin for 333 years, or 121,545 doses at a cost of $40,000, in order to eliminate one MI. However the study also states, “no differences were noted for all-cause mortality.” The net result of consuming $40,000 of statins is to shift the cause of death for one person to something other than a MI.

Try not to be too hard on your doctor. There are sneaky tricks which the study writers perform in order to hide their deception. They start off by claiming that statins reduce “cholesterol levels.” HDL and LDL are actually lipoproteins which carry cholesterol, and are not cholesterol themselves. The studies show a reduction in these “cholesterol” levels by approximately the amount which their cooked numbers claim statins reduce cardiovascular risks.

You either accept this correlation, or you are forced to examine the possibility that the relationship of MIs to “cholesterol” is not what we have been told. In reality, the relationship is a lucrative illusion.

John Burd resides in Coal Township and is seeking to be in Independent candidate for Northumberland County Commissioner.