In fact, it appears to increase the likelihood of stroke…
So, if increasing the amount of “good” cholesterol doesn’t actually make you any less likely to have a stroke or heart attack, then are we still calling it “good”?
Here is the most important line in the article to digest:
“The results are part of a string of studies that suggest that what doctors thought they knew about cholesterol may be wrong.”
It is a peculiar arrogance of man that allows him to believe that he can fully understand and even outsmart the human body. If there are raised levels of cholesterol in the blood, perhaps this is part of a beneficial or benign function the body is performing, a process more commonly occurring in those with poor cardiovascular health? Cause and effect is unknown.
That is merely a very simple thought, but it is a source of reasonable doubt to anyone weighing that thought without prejudice.
Now, there is no standard measure of doubt which may exist in a doctor’s mind before he or she may prescribe medication to treat a condition, but there is a standard I hold myself to when it comes to me putting things into my body.
NIASPAN (niacin) is an unscored, medium-orange, film-coated tablet for oral administration and is available in three tablet strengths containing 500, 750, and 1000 mg niacin. NIASPAN (niacin) tablets also contain the inactive ingredients hypromellose, povidone, stearic acid, and polyethylene glycol, and the following coloring agents: FD&C yellow #6/sunset yellow FCF Aluminum Lake, synthetic red and yellow iron
The above illustration and accompanying description is that of the medication in question.
What is purely factual is that scientists have discovered a link between high levels of so-called “bad cholesterol” and increased risk of heart attack or stroke, but they still have not uncovered the nature of that link. Scientists and drug companies then made the assumption that since lowering levels of “bad” cholesterol decreased the likelihood of a stroke or heart attack, that then increasing the levels of “good” cholesterol would similarly protect cardiovascular health. This assumption was just proven wrong. In fact, increasing levels of “good” cholesterol was found to expose people to an increased risk of stroke.
Despite the multitude of potentially dangerous drugs on the market to solve the cholesterol “problem”, the problem hasn’t truly been unmasked and defined clearly. Rather, there is a relationship involving cholesterol and heart health, but the relationship is currently not well understood. Perhaps it will be fully understood in time, but presently there are only theories which are currently being tested on millions of Americans who use these medications.
In scientific education, one of the earliest and most important concepts any good thinker must embrace fully is the appreciation that correlation does not equal causation. A relationship between “A” and “B” does not mean one causes the other in a strictly linear fashion. They both may be influenced by another, presently unknown, variable…“C”.
Far too often the other, unseen variable is waiting to be recognized, and that discovery unlocks a whole new level of understanding, and everybody is forced to admit that they had no idea how little they understood the topic previously.
“Not surprisingly, doctors thought that if they could raise H.D.L. levels, their patients would benefit. So far, that assumption is not panning out. Nobody knows why.”
So, what does this mean to the millions of Americans currently taking expensive prescription medication that they were told would help keep them safe from heart attack or stroke? It means you may have been taking that medication unnecessarily. Modern medicine’s best effort may have failed you and millions of others and exposed you to side-effects as-of-yet undocumented.
When you watch the commercials for medications like these types, please notice the warnings about how certain medications are not safe for people with liver problems. This is because the liver is the vital organ that filters toxins out of your body. These medications are viewed by your body as toxic foreign substances, and the liver has to put in additional work trying to cleanse your body of the “hypromellose, povidone, stearic acid, and polyethylene glycol, and the following coloring agents: FD&C yellow #6/sunset yellow FCF Aluminum Lake, synthetic red and yellow iron oxides, and titanium dioxide” inside the pill.
The effectiveness of a medication has to be weighed against any possible toxic effects on the body. If a medication truly does prevent stroke or heart attack, then this certainly can be an important benefit, and is likely a medicine worth taking no matter the extra work your liver has to do to break it down and send it on a one-way trip into your toilet.
In closing, I would like to mention that the drug in question is called Niaspan. It is a slow-release form of Niacin. Niacin is commonly known as Vitamin B3. Yes, you read that right…vitamin B3. Vitamin B3 can be found in a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and meats. In order to get Vitamin B3 into a slow-release capsule the ingredients and additives listed above in italics were added to a vitamin.
Abbot Laboratories sold just under $1 billion worth of Niaspan in 2010.
The original NY Times article is here.