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Fast Food: Do You Want Fries With That? Lipitor?

Cardiologists suggest that cholesterol-lowering statin drugs be given out free with fast food meals

December 22, 2011 |
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Acknowledgements

Image thanks to Damien du Toit.

 

Transcript

Why go to the bother of changing one’s diet, when you could just take a pill? In fact they could just hand them out at the drive through. Ridiculous, you say? Published in a prestigious cardiology journal last year: quote… “The risk reduction associated with the daily consumption of most statins, the cholesterol-lowering drugs—is more powerful than the risk increase caused by the daily extra fat intake associated with a Quarter Pounder® with cheese and a small milkshake." 
In conclusion, statin therapy can neutralize the cardiovascular risk caused by harmful diet choices. 
Look, you want to ride a motorcycle, smoke, drive, we got helmets, filters, seatbelts. If people are going to continue to smoke cigarettes, might as well put some filters on them. Likewise, some individuals eat unhealthily. 
Hey fast food outlets already offer free condiments to supplement meals, so why not a "statin-containing accompaniment." You've heard of ketchup packets? How about complimentary statin packets? 
What about statin safety, side effects? They thought of that. Statins have a favorable benefit-to-risk ratio with only rare adverse effects reported in liver, kidney and muscle tissue. 
Yeah, if statins are to be made more readily available by fast food outlets, statin toxicity might become a greater concern, but, uh, we’re talking about people who eat quarter pounders with cheese and a milkshake. Surely “We can conclude that the documented safety record of statins is substantially better than that of fast food!”
They conclude: “We envisage a future in which fast food restaurants encourage a holistic approach to healthy living. On ordering an unhealthy meal, the food will arrive labeled with a warning message similar to those found on cigarette packets (“This meal increases your risk for heart disease and death”), and on the tray, next to the ketchup, will be a new and protective packet, “McStatin,” which could be sprinkled onto a Quarter Pounder or into a milkshake. This could easily be provided at no extra charge, just as sugar and salt.” That's the holistic approach; drugs in your happy meal.
See figure 4, it says. Are you ready? I couldn’t make this stuff up.
Figure 4: New concept in fast food risk reduction. “No tablet can completely neutralize the harm to your individual health from eating unhealthfully. Better ways to reduce your risk of death from heart attack include: Eating healthfully…See your doctor for complete advice.” Though of course your doctor may very well be somewhere behind you in the drive-through line.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

To help out on the site please email volunteer@nutritionfacts.org

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. Be sure to check out all the videos on heart disease and statins.

Check out my associated blog posts for more context: Generic Lipitor is not the answer to our heart disease epidemic and Stool Size and Breast Cancer Risk.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

    Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. Be sure to check out all the videos on heart disease and statins.

    And check out my associated blog post “Generic Lipitor is not the answer to our heart disease epidemic.”

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/thea/ Thea

    This is insane! It sure sounds like fiction. I have to wonder who pays those people’s salaries.

    It’s just insane. I can’t stop thinking that.

    Insane.

    • jeff swanson

      You think this sounds like fiction? Lookup more bizarre facts like False Flag attacks: Operation Ajax, Gulf of Tonkin, Sinking of the Maine, USS Liberty. These incidents precipitated the mass murder of millions of innocent people and the squander of trillions in wealth (wealth that could have gone toward advancing health, technology).

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/beckyr/ BeckyR

    This is horrifying! How could this be thought of as an appropriate solution to the problem of fast food? Unreal.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/RainVainik/ Rain Vainik

    I kinda like this approach of highlighting the real problems ;-)
    Thank you for posting this news!

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/lworley1/ lworley1

    You can’t possibly be the only physician with a sense of humor. Maybe this was a draft of something meant for Saturday Night Live instead of a serious entry in a medical journal, it sounds very tongue-in-cheek. But maybe I’m giving too much credit to the medical establishment’s level of sanity and reality.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/vallis/ Vallis

    How does a person safely get off Lipitor when they start eating a new plant based smart fat free diet? My mother says she has to take Lipitor and will only do what her Dr tells her but it seems to me that her Dr. and the pharmacist will be biased towards a continued use of Lipitor and frown on diet as an access to lowering and handling a cholesterol concern.

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/thea/ Thea

      Vallis: I’m no doctor, but I have a suggestion for you. My understanding is that Lipitor is really only marginally effective. However, the diet, if it is stuck to, should be very effective. Maybe after a few months, you could go into the doctors with your mom and have the blood work re-done in detail. When it comes back shinning, ask the doctor if your mother could use that news to start weening herself off the drugs. Go to the meeting armed with information that backs up your assertion that the change in your mom’s blood work is her diet, not so much the drugs. If it is an honest doctor he/she should listen.

      I know how frustrating this can be. Sometimes our loved ones seem determined to work against common sense and their own self-interest. I wish you the best of luck with your mother and her doctor and pharmacist.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/vallis/ Vallis

    How to transition from Lipitor to a plant based diet is my question, can she go cold turkey and just stop taking it? Might her cholesterol sky rocket and put her at risk? Thank-you.

    • Robin D. Everson

      Vallis, I went off a cholesterol lowering medication using a plant-based diet. The key is to see your doctor first to discuss what supplements/vitamins you might need. I didn’t stop cold turkey from taking them, just like I didn’t stop cold turkey from taking my diabetes meds. I checked in with my doctor regarding my blood glucose readings and since my blood glucose level dropped 100 points within the first week of adopting a plant-based diet, it was obvious that the diet was helping my health. I was off my statin med within a month or two after going plant-based. The absence of eggs, meat, chicken, fish, cheese, animal-created milks is where the high cholesterol comes into play. Without it, it isn’t an issue. Going plant-based helps your body heal (and quickly). After she has been on a plant-based diet for a while, she should again go see her doctor to have her levels checked.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/drdons/ DrDons

    Hi Vallis, All recommendations for use of statins such as lipitor include recommendations for improved lifestyle including nutrition so the doctor and pharmacist should be okay with an improved diet. Most doctors and pharmacists aren’t aware of the degree of improvement one can get from a plant based diet since they don’t have much experience in this area. For my patients who were on statins I recommended changing diet first then rechecking cholesterol panel to see the degree of improvement. If you change both things at the same time it gets a little confusing as the diet sends the cholesterol down and stopping the drug sends the cholesterol up. There is no inherent danger in stopping a statin “cold turkey”. The cholesterol will go up but will return to her pretreatment level. You might read more about the treatment of cholesterol, heart disease and the side effects of the statins such as Lipitor by going to John McDougall MD’s website, clicking on “Hot Topics read more” link and looking under “Cholesterol & Triglycerides”& “Heart Disease & Atherosclerosis”. She should continue to work with her health care professionals as going on a well design plant based diet will often require adjustments not only in her cholesterol medication but other medicines she may be on such as for blood pressure and blood sugars. Many patients can get off their medications but some will need to continue medications at reduced doses. Good Luck.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/vallis/ Vallis

    Thea and DrDons, thanks a million. Points and wisdom read considered and greatly appreciated.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/hcdr/ hcdr

    Came across this:

    Older Women On Statins Have Higher Risk Of Diabetes
    http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/240202.php

    So, perhaps nothing really changes here :)

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/wickedchicken/ wickedchicken

    LOL your doctor is probably behind you in the fast food line!!!

    OK i think we have to give it to them that the were being very sarcastic.

    Statins…..playing the devils advocate, I will say that actually they are being shown to HUGELY reduce death and cardiovascular events in large prospective population studies. Its easy to villainize pills, but sometimes we can look at the wider picture too. Diet yes amazing and KEY. But we need a stepping stone in the middle. IE, diet, getting people to change, then lose the statins. Without people being bothered to change, they are at risk. Do they deserve whats coming then? Or should they be saved by the statin? I think its a valid question..but to be fair, when strong genetic risk is involved…..a statin might just be their best friend no matter what.

  • Andrei

    Dear Mr Greger,
    Is it possible to cancel taking statines (i.e. Crestor) for female of 64 full years or it should be taken on a lifetime basis? What measures could be considered reasonable to avoid this dependence?

    • Toxins

      Its possible on a whole foods plant based diet, but you want to be under the supervision of your doctor.

  • Sebastian Tristan

    Sometimes reality can be more hilarious than comedy.

  • Susan M. Risk

    I just read that eating honey and cinnamon reduces cholesterol. I imagine the article you have cited was created tongue-in-cheek, since there are so many ways to reduce cholesterol levels through dietary balances. Durn funny, though!

  • barbarabrussels

    OMG!

  • rick

    Cardiovascular disease (CVD), which comprises heart attacks (myocardial infarction), angina and strokes, is ranked as the number one cause of mortality and is a major cause of morbidity world wide. High blood cholesterol is linked to CVD events and is an important risk factor. Reducing high blood cholesterol, is thus an important way to reduce the chances of suffering a CVD event. Statins – cholesterol lowering drugs – (e.g. simvastatin, pravastatin, atorvastatin) are the first-choice treatments. Since the early statin randomised controlled trials were reported in the 1990s, several reviews of the effects of statins have been published highlighting their benefits particularly in people with a past history of CVD. Benefits include a reduction in CVD events. Statins have also been shown to reduce the risk of a first event in otherwise healthy individuals at high risk of CVD (primary prevention) but information on possible hazards has not been reported fully. The aim of this updated systematic review is to assess the effects, both in terms of benefits and harms of statins, for the primary prevention of CVD. We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), MEDLINE and EMBASE until 2011. We found 18 randomised controlled trials with 19 trial arms (56,934 patients) dating from 1994 to 2008. All were randomised control trials comparing statins with usual care or placebo. The mean age of the participants was 57 years (range 28 – 97 years), 60.3% were men, and of the eight trials that reported on ethnicity, 85.9 % were Caucasian. Duration of treatment was a minimum one year and with follow-up of a minimum of six months. All-cause mortality and fatal and non-fatal CVD events were reduced with the use of statins as was the need for revascularisation (the restoration of an adequate blood supply to the heart) by means of surgery (coronary artery bypass graft ) or by angioplasty (PTCA). Of 1000 people treated with a statin for five years, 18 would avoid a major CVD event which compares well with other treatments used for preventing cardiovascular disease. Taking statins did not increase the risk of serious adverse effects such as cancer. Statins are likely to be cost-effective in primary prevention.
    This shook my foundation a little. It is from the Cochrane Collaboration. Is there any way we can know who conducted or financed the studies that give statins such an outstanding review?