High Cholesterol And Heart Disease � Myth or Truth?
The Response-to-Injury Rabbit Never Developed Atherosclerosis � Why Not?
August 23, 2008
by Chris Masterjohn
The pop science version of cholesterol goes something like this: when you eat fatty foods, especially foods rich in animal fat, the saturated fat and cholesterol in these foods wind up in your blood and stick to your arteries. Since saturated fats are solid outside your body, they will be solid inside your body too � depsite the 30-degree increase in average temperature. Arteries are much like pipes. When they get caked up with grease, blood flow is impaired, and a heart attack ensues.
None of the prominent scientists who promoted the idea that cholesterol is a critical factor in the development of heart disease ever believed anything remotely resembling this nonsense. From the beginning, they recognized that atherosclerotic plaque accumulates behind
the layer of the artery in contact with the blood, called the endothelium, and that the cholesterol and fat within it is engulfed in white blood cells.
The theory these scientists promoted looked something like this: when the cholesterol level in the blood increases, it penetrates the arterial wall and gets stuck; white blood cells circulating in the blood then enter the arterial wall and gobble up the cholesterol; the accumulation of lipid-loaded white blood cells causes local injury, leading to cell death, calcification, and the development of a collagen-laden "fibrous cap" over the atherosclerotic lesion. When the cap ruptures, the blood clots, blocking the artery and causing a heart attack. This is called the lipid hypothesis
. But is this true? Books and web sites devoted to debunking this theory have come out of the woodwork over the last decade; books defending it have followed suit. Consider the following titles to see just how controversial the idea really is: