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Statin denialism (also known as cholesterol denialism) is a form of pseudoscientific denialism that asserts that cholesterol does not cause cardiovascular disease and/or that statin usage does not reduce the likelihood of cardiovascular disease. Proponents claim that statins should be avoided and are evil because they are sold by Big Pharma and cause adverse side effects. It is promoted by LCHF conspiracy theorists and has a presence on social media platforms such as Twitter.
Statin denialism is not taken seriously by the medical community. It has been described by a medical expert as an "internet-driven cult with deadly consequences."
Statin or cholesterol deniers claim that saturated fat has wrongly been demonized by medical scientists and is healthy for dieting in very high quantities. They say that high cholesterol is good for health and there is no link between cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular diseases. This view is contradicted by scientific evidence and has been described as bad science and dangerous.
Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology Rory Collins has compared statin denialism to flat earthism, he has noted "the claims that blood LDL cholesterol levels are not causally related to cardiovascular disease (which is really in the same realm as claiming that smoking does not cause cancer) are factually false."
According to cardiologist Steve Nissen, "We have abundant scientific evidence demonstrating that treatment of high risk primary prevention patients substantially reduces the risk of cardiovascular morbidity." Whilst acknowledging that statins, like other drugs, have adverse effects, "the benefits are so well documented that every effort should be made to encourage use of these drugs in appropriate patients."
The leading advocates of statin denialism are associated with the The International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics (THINCS). They have been accused of "cherry-pick[ing] the scientific literature to find studies that support their theses, ignore the flaws in those studies, and ignore the vast body of literature that contradicts them." Statin denialists are known to exaggerate the side effects of statins and utilize scaremongering tactics.
In 2017, Aseem Malhotra and colleagues published an article which disputed the link between blood cholesterol levels and occurrence of heart disease. The authors also suggested that "stopping statins may paradoxically save more lives". The article was criticized by the medical community. Cardiologist Tim Chico commented that "high cholesterol has been proven beyond all doubt to contribute to coronary artery disease and heart attack […] to say the cholesterol hypothesis is dead is simply incorrect."
Statin denialists are known to spread misinformation. James Stein a Professor of Cardiovascular Research has stated that "many lives have been lost or impaired because of statin non-compliance."
List of notable statin denialists
- Nissen SE. (2017). "Statin Denial: An Internet-Driven Cult With Deadly Consequences". Ann Intern Med. 2017 Aug 15;167(4): 281-282.
- Butter nonsense: the rise of the cholesterol deniers
- Nissen Calls Statin Denialism A Deadly Internet-Driven Cult
- Statin Denialism
- The Movie “Cholesterol: The Great Bluff” Is an Exercise in Denialism
- Demasi, M; Lustig R. H; Malhotra A. (2017). "The cholesterol and calorie hypotheses are both dead — it is time to focus on the real culprit: insulin resistance". The Pharmaceutical Journal doi:10.1211/CP.2017.20203046.
- Expert reaction to new report on statins and the cholesterol hypothesis
- Dr. James Stein Speaks Out Against "Statin Denialism"
- Tim Noakes called a 'cholesterol denialist'