Is High Cholesterol The Cause of Heart Disease?
An Interview with Uffe Ravnskov MD, PhD.
Part 1: The Cholesterol Hypothesis
Q: When did you begin to suspect that the cholesterol theory of atherosclerosis might be wrong?
What led you to this conclusion? Before then, had you believed in the cholesterol theory? Was this part of your training?
UR: I have never thought that it was true. I heard about it for the first time in 1962 shortly after having got my MD. My biochemical knowledge was still intact at that time and I knew that cholesterol was one of the most important molecules in our body, indispensable for the building of our cells and for producing stress and sex hormones as well as vitamin D. The idea that cholesterol in the blood should kill use if its concentration is a little higher than normally, as they wrote in the Framingham paper, seemed to me just as silly as to claim that yellow fingers cause lung cancer.
Q: Would you tell my readers about your training, publications, university appointments, other professional activities?
UR: The first seven years as a doctor I worked on different medical departments in Denmark and Sweden. In 1968 I started my academic career at the Department of Nephrology, University Hospital in Lund where I got my PhD. After a few years I organized a research team investigating the association between hydrocarbon exposure and glomerulonephritis.
Unfortunately I caught one of my coworkers in producing a fraudulent paper. It was unfortunate, because it is risky to be a whistleblower in the academic world. Instead of excluding the fraudulent researcher it was my research that was questioned. The resistance against my research from my superiors became intolerable and I therefore decided to go into private practice. Nevertheless I succeeded in publishing the main part of my research in major medical journals after having left the department. I have summarized my findings and conclusions on the web as well.
In the late eighties the cholesterol campaign was started in Sweden. I was much surprised because I couldn't recall anything in the scientific literature in support. I started reading it systematically and I soon realized that I was right. Since then I have published about eighty papers and letter and also books, translated into five languages, where I have presenting my arguments and criticism.
Q: How has your work believe received by your colleagues? By healthcare professionals and consumers around the world?
UR: In the beginning nobody took notice. To ignore criticism is the most effective way to maintain a false idea. My first book was published in Sweden in 1991 and a Finnish edition shortly afterwards. The Swedish one made no impact whatsoever and the Finnish one was put on fire in a television show. Ridicule and slander have been used as well as a mean to muffle me. After I had aired my warnings against statin treatment in Dutch television for instance, Dutch researchers described me in a following show as a crackpot who had been kicked from the universities of Copenhagen and Lund. The directors of the show offered my critics a possibility to discuss the issue with me on television, but all of them declined. On his blog Michael Eades has described how one of them later on belittled me in a scientific paper.
But I have also realized that I am not alone. Seven years ago I started THINCS, The International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics (www.thincs.org ), which now includes about eighty doctors, professors and other researchers from all over the world, who share my scepticism; and I have received two international awards for my contributions. Also encouraging are the hundreds of emails that I receive every year from patients, who have regained their health after having stopped their cholesterol-lowering treatment.
Q: Your work seems to validate what many integrative health care professionals have been saying for decades. How does the alternative community respond to you?
UR: There is a much more open attitude from these people.
Q: If the cholesterol hypothesis is in error, does this mean that all of its therapies — low cholesterol diet, cholesterol lowering natural therapies and medications — are wrong?
UR: Absolutely. This kind of treatment is meaningless, costly and has transformed millions of healthy people into patients.