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Jonathan: Hey, everyone Jonathan Bailor here coming at you with another bonus Smarter Science of Slim podcast, and today everyone if it’s possible buckle up your seatbelts because you’re in for a little bit of a wild ride here. We’ve got potentially the most provocative guest we’ve had on so far. Someone who is challenging what has become such an institution in our cultures. We’re talking a 50 plus billion dollar industry something that is as common as maybe taking multivitamins, but there are some cracks in the armor – let’s put it that way to be nice, and I’ll let our guest Justin Smith talk a lot more about that. But, let the cat out of the bag we have got Justin Smith the producer of the wonderful film $tatin Nation, you can learn more at StatinNation.net or just search for it on Facebook, he’s based out of London. He is a one-man army out to tell the truth about this medication which has literally become like Skittles. It’s just like a cold medication and it shouldn’t be thought of that way, so thrilled to have Justin on the show! Justin, welcome!
Justin: Hi, Jonathan it’s a great pleasure to be here. Thank you very much.
Jonathan: Justin let’s just get into this starting at the very beginning. Give us a quick overview of what the film is about. Why you created it and the story behind it?
Justin: Okay, the film challenges the idea of the mass prescription of cholesterol medications; in particular statins. I very, very strongly believe that these medications have been massively over-prescribed, particularly to people who are pretty healthy; they don’t have any symptoms or diagnosed heart problems at the moment, but they’re being given the medication as a preventative measure, so it’s about that. But, it’s also raising a number of important issues about the whole basis of lowering cholesterol levels because when we look at all of the evidence, all of the data, it’s very clear that actually we’re better off with slightly higher cholesterol reports overall. There’s no real scientific basis for lowering people’s cholesterol levels; it’s just about making a lot of money for the pharmaceutical industry, and for the food industry as well, so that is the basis of the documentary.
I was working as a nutrition consultant and I increasingly found it very, very difficult to do my job properly because there are all these fundamental nutritional myths that I was spending all of the time in each consultation to correct. I started off with a book, so I wrote a book that was published in 2009 called $29 Billion Reasons to Lie About Cholesterol, and the intention with that was to give to people – to clients in particular – to read in their own spare time, so that we could move more quickly, and be more productive in the actual consultation time. When I did the research in more detail for the book I was just horrified to find just how bad the situation had become and the background – all the fundamental problems that exist within medicine. Really the documentary film was a natural progression from the book with the intention of course to try, and get the information out to a much wider audience.
Jonathan: Justin this is such a pervasive thing. I’m very familiar with the research as well certainly not to the extent that you are – the thing that scares me the most is this is not controversial. If you actually look at the literature and if you actually understand even rudimentary biology it’s clear that this paradigm is wrong. Certainly there may be a role for statins, but in much fringed cases – not the way they’re currently being used. Given the fact that the evidence is clear, given the fact that the biology is clear what is going on? How can we reverse this or what can we do about this?
Justin: Well I think the only way that we can reverse this is sort of from the grassroots level upwards. So, by ordinary people becoming aware of the issue, and then going to their doctor, and raising these important points with their doctor. Then eventually if we can achieve this critical mass of people, particularly in the U.S., and the U.K., who are aware of the issue then that will eventually force a change in government healthcare policy. Of course it’s an incredibly difficult task, but we are making steps in the right direction. The problem I think is that the pharmaceutical companies have such an influence over the whole medical system that we’re not going to get a policy change that will filter down to the general public. It has to come from the general public upwards because the pharmaceutical companies do about 80% of all the research now. Of course they are going to direct the research, so that the results come out to be favorable to their products that they are trying to sell to us. They do all kinds of things to misrepresent the scientific evidence to doctors, so doctors are almost brainwashed into believing that they need to lower their patients’ cholesterol levels, and that goes all the way through medical school, and continues through their continuing education. When a patient goes to see their doctor having done some research, it’s very difficult for the patient to get a really positive response from the doctor because the doctor has been as I say, “Almost brainwashed into believing this about cholesterol.”
Jonathan: Justin, two things I want to dig into – one is how we can equip people to have this conversation with their doctor. I want to talk about that, so three things. I want to talk about how – certainly for individuals who are hearing this right now, and are just like, “What? What? This just sounds like heresy, please watch Justin’s film $tatin Nation – StatinNation.net.” I don’t want to get into that on this call because it’s certainly a full-length film, and we wouldn’t do justice to it. Watch the film it’s profound, and it will give you the insight you need. Justin one thing I want to make sure we cover is there may be some alarm bells going off in listeners’ heads talking about conspiracy theory, “Oh, this sounds like a conspiracy theory.” Just really quickly I want to dispel that, it’s not a conspiracy theory; it’s common sense. The pharmaceutical industry is not necessarily a bunch of evil people sitting in a room, thinking about how to kill as many people as possible; however, they are in the business of making money. If they’re in the business of making money – coming up with convincing those who prescribe medication that an expensive medication such as a statin should be used preventatively, globally; is an incredibly profitable thing to do. It is in their interest – remember their interest is not our health. It’s not because they’re evil; it’s just because that’s not their interest. Their interest is in making money and this is a very effective way to make money. The only people interested in our health are us, and that’s why Justin put this film together, and that’s why we need to talk about how we can ensure our cholesterol health. Justin, how do we do that with our doctors?
Justin: Well, just very briefly just to reinforce what you just said about how this has come about – yes, the pharmaceutical company as you absolutely correctly say, their objectives are completely different to our personal objectives of achieving good health. Of course they have an increasing pressure every year to generate more profit for shareholders. A number of years ago the pharmaceutical model if you like was suffering in, that they were failing to come up with new medications that genuinely helped people. As a business they looked at that problem and decided what they needed to do was to get more people to take the medications that they have already approved that’s already out there in the marketplace. They did actually move some of the resources from Research & Development into the Marketing Department, and that’s one of the ways that they’ve continued to generate more and more profit.
I think one of the toils certainly that I’m trying to make available for ordinary people to go, and talk to their doctor about is a fact sheet that I’m going to put together, and put available from the website StatinNation.net. This will include some of the key points with the references to the scientific literature. So, an ordinary patient will be able to go and talk to their doctor about this with some of the key points like, “How come none of the clinical trials have shown any life extension for the vast majority of people who take statin medications?” and some of the evidence, the key points, about the side effects of statin medications that are really routinely played down in the media, and within some of the journals. I think if people are equipped with these key points, and key questions they can take to their doctor then that would help to create more of an impact.
Jonathan: Justin, that’s brilliant I’m, so happy you’re going to have that fact sheet because literally putting that on our refrigerator, taking that to our doctor will be so helpful. In the meantime if I have a doctor’s appointment next week or if I’m waking up tomorrow morning, and taking my statin medication what are some of the things – like who should be taking statin medications? Who shouldn’t be, and how do we accurately make that distinction?
Justin: Well in medical terms this is described in terms of primary prevention, and secondary prevention. Primary prevention is all of the people they could have to try and to prevent a future heart problem. Seventy percent of all the people that take statin around the world. All of the clinical trials have shown that no extension of life expectancy when people take a statin for primary prevention. When we come to secondary prevention, that’s people who have an existing heart problem they’ve been diagnosed with a heart problem of some kind or other. There is an argument that some people make for taking a statin in that situation, and it’s really difficult to say at the moment whether the statin would be beneficial or not; it’s one of those things that really has to be judged on the individual level with the person’s doctor.
We do know that within the secondary prevention population it tends to be just middle-aged men who tend to benefit from taking the statin. One of the reasons for that is as we get older there’s a very strong correlation between low cholesterol levels, and a reduced life expectancy. Even if the statins benefit middle-aged men who have already had a heart attack then they don’t benefit people who have already had a heart attack who are older than that. That’s the secondary prevention – there’s a much more complicated discussion to have that people should have with their doctor. It’s the primary prevention people the 75% of people who were taking the medication for, so called prevention that are not benefiting, and really should think seriously about whether they should be taking the statin medication at all.
Jonathan: Justin one thing that I think is a great thing to talk about here is, sometimes we may hear well people think to themselves, “Well, okay, I’m taking statin medication, but it sounds like there may be some negative side effects.” Correct me if I’m wrong Justin, but that’s actually maybe the wrong mental model because we need to just [re-jiffer] the way our minds are working about this in general. Any time you take a medication of any sort, including statins there’s no such things as side effects; there are just effects. Some of them are quote on quote ‘desirable’ some are marketed and some aren’t. When you take a statin – Justin can certainly talk more about this – you essentially stop a bunch of processes in your body many of which, if not most of which, are required for good health, and are intentionally taking place. These are not side effects this is the effect of statins. Whether or not that’s a good thing is really being called into question, and that’s why I really appreciate Justin’s work. Justin can you talk a little bit about what statins actually do, and why we should be suspicious that the effects are in any way, shape, or form, beneficial for the vast majority of us?
Justin: Absolutely! Well let’s take the most important effect first of all, in that they lower cholesterol levels. They do of course lower cholesterol levels, and they do that very well. That is actually an adverse effect of the medication because of the strong correlation between low cholesterol levels and a reduced life expectancy. If we look at what cholesterol is used for within the body we start to get an understanding why it’s probably not a good idea to start to lower these levels. It’s used for the raw material for the production of vitamin D within the body. It’s used for all of the steroid hormones, so testosterone, cortisol, and the others. It’s used as a raw material for the bile acids used for the digestion of fats. The cholesterol is a major part of the cell membrane, so the outer skin if you like of every single cell within the human body.
Our bodies are made up of something like fifty trillion cells and every one of those cells, the outer skin of it, a large portion of that is actually made from cholesterol. We’ve known for a long time that the cholesterol in that skin or membrane of the cell is incredibly important because it provides the structural rigidity for the cell to be protected from its external environment. We’ve known that for a very long time, but increasingly more recently we’re finding new studies to show that the cholesterol is actually involved in the actual intelligence of the cell. It’s being used as part of the cellular signaling processes that take place within the cell. We also know that certain cells within the body require more cholesterol, so this would be; brain cells, cells associated with the nervous system and the immune system as well.
When we reduce the availability of cholesterol within the body through taking statin medications all of these important parts of the body are going to suffer, and that’s why really the effects are in many ways unpredictable, and any part of the body can be affected. There is a great document produced by Sayer Ji’s[16:20] from GreenMedInfo.com, and he’s documented more than 300 adverse effects that we know are caused by statins. The most common adverse effects are as we would expect problems to do with the brain, the nervous system, the immune system, and muscles as well. Muscle aches and pains are the most common adverse effect, but that can go all the way from a mild problem all the way to people who can’t unfortunately actually walk anymore because it’s so severe. There’s also evidence that unfortunately, this statin damage as some people call it can continue when someone has stopped taking the medication as well. It can be, so severe that it continues after stopping taking the medication. So, really although it’s true that of course any medication has a range of effects, and we have to balance the adverse effects against the positive effects. But, because statins have this profound effect on the body it’s almost ridiculous that they were ever conceived as a medication in the first place.
Jonathan: Justin, I think that’s the key distinction. Certainly there’s always a cost benefit and we’re not here to say, “Modern medicine is evil, and blah, blah, blah.” That’s not what we’re here to say. What we’re here to say is there should be a conscious weighing of the potential positives of a treatment and the potential negatives. An example which may be a little over the top, but I think drives the point home is chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is terrible it’s basically like napalming your body, it’s like, “Let’s kill everything for the hopes that the cancer cells will also die, and then hopefully the cells we need will come back.” That we know is a treatment we only use as a last resort because its effects are, so deleterious globally. I think statins are kind of in that same camp. Do they have a role? Yeah, but only in this very, very corner case because like you said they are fundamentally changing this core function in our body, and that can have widespread effects.
Justin: I think that’s a good analogy. Yes, because again, as part of the whole picture for all of the effects we know that statins also can reduce the amount of inflammation and we know that inflammation is a key part of heart disease, so that’s a positive effect of the medication. When you balance that against the profound effect it can have on all of the body cells, and the way it blocks the production of a number of nutrients as well within the body. For the average person who doesn’t have a severe heart problem the adverse effects are going to be much worse than the positive effects. When you have someone who unfortunately has already had a heart attack, and they are at a very high risk a very, very high risk of having another heart attack in the near future – the positive effect of the statin the reduction in the inflammation, and maybe some stabilization of the plaque as well. That could be more important for them as an individual at the moment than the whole range of the negative effect, so yes I think you’re absolutely right.
Jonathan: The thing that is so unfortunate about all of this is how just misinformed we’ve been. I mean we can’t tell the whole story here – certainly we don’t have time, but literally we’re told for example, going all the way back, “Don’t eat fat because fat raises your cholesterol, and cholesterol is bad for you, so eat a high-starch, high-sugar, low-fat, low-protein, standard western diet.” That is the diet which actually causes a negative cholesterol profile. That is the diet that causes the inflammation that actually causes the arterial clogging which people thought or are told is caused by cholesterol, but is not. The buildup of cholesterol is actually an effect of the inflammation which is an effect of the diet we’ve been told to eat. Then we’re prescribed statins which just breaks everything else on top of that where at the end of the day if we just ate things we could find directly in nature none of this would be a problem. It all just goes away, and there are no side effects to that, in fact it’s just brilliant for us.
Justin: Absolutely, for me one of the fundamental points is that we’ve been led to believe to what we think about fats in our diet in terms if we eat those fats, and they end up as fats floating around in our bloodstream. Of course that’s not true at all in fact the opposite is true. When we avoid fat and we have too much carbohydrate, and too many sugars the excess carbohydrate, and sugar of course is converted into glucose in the bloodstream. That glucose is very quickly converted into triglycerides which are the fats in the bloodstream. What we find is that people who follow a low-fat diet with too much carbohydrates, and sugars their blood fats are much, much higher than people who follow a higher-fat more sensible diet.
Jonathan: Yeah, it’s literally like…I don’t know if this analogy’s going to work – I’m spit-balling it here. If your goal is to avoid lung cancer the last thing you would do is smoke more, and then hope some medication would come along that would down-regulate or avert the consequences of smoking on your respiratory system. If our goal is to avoid heart problems the last thing we should do is eat more low-fat starches and sweets because they’re a bit like smoking is to our lungs to our cardiovascular system, and then hope that some medication will miraculously undo that damage. It just doesn’t work that way.
Justin: Absolutely yes, and of course there are all kinds of other implications of having these higher blood glucose levels caused by a low-fat diet. The high level of blood glucose actually prevents the arteries from widening. It actually restricts the blood flow to the heart and, as you mentioned earlier it also causes inflammation which we know is the key feature of heart disease. So, whichever way you look at it the low-fat diet is more likely to cause heart disease.
Jonathan: One thing I think that’s important to call out Justin, is it sounds like we’re coming out against low-fat diets, and people what they may hear is, “Okay, well what about all these studies that show that individuals who ate higher-fat diets had a higher incidence of heart issues.” The key distinction I think we need to make there, and you can certainly speak more to this is the type of fats that are being consumed. If you’re consuming processed unnatural fats, and you’re doing that in conjunction with a diet that is also high in starches and sweets, so essentially you’re eating what I would call Insane foods, foods that have unhealthy fats as well as unnatural processed starches and sweets. That is horrible, that’s like the worst possible combination of things because you’re eating everything bad. What we’re talking about doing is eating healthy fats, eating healthy carbohydrates, and eating healthy proteins. That’s what you should do, and you don’t have to worry about low-this or high-that you just need to eat food. What say you?
Justin: Absolutely, yes absolutely agree, I certainly end up talking in those terms it sounds like I’m criticizing a low-fat diet, but really I’m just trying to restore some balance into the discussion because we’ve been brainwashed, and told continuously that we need to avoid this fat. That is so disproportionate that we’re trying to bring things back to more of sort of a middle ground. The other important point of course is individuality. One person may need something like 30% protein, and fat in their diet, and another person might need 70%, so there’s a huge variation between different people. The most important thing as you’ve mentioned is to stick to the natural foods as much as possible – the good quality proteins, meat, poultry, seafood, eggs with vegetables, and some amount of fruit, and staying away from as much of the processed food as much as possible.
Jonathan: That’s really I think a key point Justin, because if you actually look at least in the States the typical ratio of macronutrients consumed is not actually a low… We’re told to eat a low-fat diet, but the average American at least isn’t. We’re eating a moderate if not a higher fat diet, but it’s the source of the fats – it’s these processed seed oils. Eating a diet that is higher in these fats which are terrible for you like, there is no question. They’re unnatural the body is not designed to handle them they’re as bad for you as processed starches, and sweets if not worse because they literally break your brains ability to regulate your body naturally. Those is in no way, shape, or form the same as eating a diet which contains whole foods such as high-quality meats, sea foods, nuts, things like cocoa, coconut. That is literally day and night from what those substances do to your body. Just like spinach is primarily carbohydrate and so is sugar – we get that a diet high in spinach is not the same as a diet high in sugar. A diet which is 35% processed seed oils is not the same as a diet that is 35% whole food natural fat at all. Any time you hear anyone criticizing the consumption of fat or you see any study which criticizes the consumption of fat the first thing to do is look at where the fat is coming from, because of course unhealthy sources of fat are bad for you. But that is the key distinction for us to make.
Justin: Yes, absolutely.
Jonathan: So, Justin, in terms of immediate next steps – what are the three takeaways you would say that we should all leave with from this conversation?
Justin: Well one of the most important point is that statin medications do not benefit people who don’t have a diagnosed heart problem. There is no correlation between the level of cholesterol in the bloodstream, and a person’s risk of heart disease at all. The third thing is although what we’ve just been talking about just sticking to a natural wholesome diet, and really we would better off not even know our cholesterol levels I think. It creates, so much anxiety, and of course the medication the risk of being prescribed the medications that we’d be best just leading a healthier life with good-quality nutrition.
Jonathan: That’s really the key point there Justin, I love that, and in some ways the harder we’re trying the unhealthier, and we’re taking these medications where we’re trying to manually regulate our cholesterol levels. We’re trying to manually count calories and the only reason those are even issues we’ve become conscious of is because our bodies have lost the ability to automatically regulate us, to keep us in a state of homeostasis, to balance us out as they’re designed to, right? They’re designed to keep us healthy. Why has that happened? It’s because we’re eating the wrong types of foods.
Like, being healthy and being slim becomes, so simple – it may not be easy because we’re surrounded by all this processed garbage, but it’s so simple when we just feed our body that which it was designed to eat which is stuff you can find in nature, and enable it to automatically regulate our energy balance, our cholesterol levels, our sodium levels, our potassium levels. We can’t possibly consciously monitor all of this stuff, and every time we try to we just make things worse – statins are a perfect example. I really, really appreciate all the work you’ve been doing Justin. Individuals who want to learn more about this, and really it should be everyone at this point – because if you the listener are not on a statin medication you certainly know someone who is. Please check out StatinNation.net. Justin’s work is amazing, Justin when can we expect that fact sheet to be available?
Justin: I think within two weeks.
Jonathan: Oh, beautiful, beautiful. Well, actually by the time this airs that will be available, so definitely go to StatinNation.net, check out that fact sheet, check out Justin’s film. Justin, I just wanted to salute you and thank you because this is certainly not an easy thing to do. You’re up against a multibillion dollar industry, but it’s certainly a noble motive, and I can only imagine the number of lives you’re improving and frankly saving. So thank you so much.
Justin: Thank you Jonathan. Thanks very much for all of your wonderful work as well.
Jonathan: All right, wonderful, well hey thank you, so much Justin, for being with us. Listeners I hope this has been helpful for you again, always remember to chat with your doctor, but also take the power into your own hands, and do some research on your own. Check out Justin’s work. Have a wonderful week and remember to eat more, and exercise less, but do that smarter. Have a good one!
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Carrie: You can get fabulous free SANE recipes over at CarrieBrown.com.
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This week we have the pleasure of hearing from Justin Smith. Justin is the director of the must-see documentary Statin Nation, and is here to tell us why educating ourselves about statins may save our life and the lives of many of our loved ones.