Originally published November 19 2015
Big Pharma developing cholesterol vaccine to continue profiting from bad nutrition when Americans ditch brain-damaging statins
by David Gutierrez, staff writer
(NaturalNews) Researchers have developed a vaccine that is more effective than statin drugs at lowering levels of LDL ("bad") cholesterol in the body, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of New Mexico and the National Institutes of Health, and published in the journal Vaccine.
Cholesterol is an essential substance produced by the body from saturated fat. It is the precursor to vitamin D, several hormones and some digestive molecules. Its role in heart disease remains unclear. Numerous studies, however, have linked one variety of cholesterol — LDL — to higher rates of cardiovascular disease.
The best way to maintain low LDL levels is to eat a nutritious diet (high in vegetables and ideally with no trans fats), and to get plenty of exercise. Nevertheless, cholesterol-lowering statins have become the top selling drug in the United States.
Vaccine blocks action of protein in bodyThe new vaccine works by blocking the functioning of a protein known as PCSK9. This protein binds to the receptor that removes LDL cholesterol from the blood. Different people produce different levels of PCSK9, and higher levels are associated with a higher risk of heart disease.
The researchers showed that in both mice and macaque monkeys, the vaccine blocked PCSK9, caused more LDL cholesterol to be flushed from the body, and led to lower levels of LDL cholesterol overall.
It is unclear what the long-term health effects of blocking PCSK9 might be. It has also yet to be shown that blocking PCSK9 actually lowers rates of heart disease or cardiovascular mortality.
The FDA recently approved two separate drugs that interfere with PCSK9 — Alirocumab and Evolocumab. Because these drugs cost more that $10,000 a year, the researchers in the new study are optimistic that their significantly cheaper vaccine will be much more popular.
The researchers plan to carry out further studies on monkeys and hope that the drug could eventually provide an alternative to statins.
"Statins are still the most commonly prescribed medication for cholesterol," said co-author Alan Remaley. "Although they are effective in many people, they do have side effects and don't work for everyone. The results of our vaccine were very striking, and suggest it could be a powerful new treatment for high cholesterol."
Serious side effects of statins include diabetes, muscle pain, cognitive loss and other forms of brain damage. To make matters worse, studies are now showing that they do not lower heart disease risk and may actually increase it.
Science uncertainAccording to a 2015 paper in the Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology, a comprehensive review of the statin literature showed that drug companies and the media have consistently ignored or minimized the risks of the drugs, while wildly exaggerating their benefits. Yet the drugs have "failed to substantially improve cardiovascular outcomes [and] the adverse effects suffered by people taking statins are more common than reported in the media and at medical conferences. Increased rates of cancer, cataracts, diabetes, cognitive impairments and musculoskeletal disorders more than offset the modest cardiovascular benefits of statin treatment," the researchers wrote.
Nevertheless, recommendations for statin use continue to be broadened. For example, statins are now recommended for up to 40 percent of British adults.
Side effects aside, it is becoming increasingly doubtful whether high blood cholesterol is really a problem that requires pharmaceutical intervention at all. Researchers are now starting to suspect that high blood cholesterol may simply be a symptom of an unhealthy cardiovascular symptom, rather than a cause thereof.
The case for limiting dietary intake of cholesterol is even shakier. Earlier this year, the U.S. government's top nutrition advisory board dropped a 40-year recommendation to limit cholesterol intake, noting that there is no scientific evidence supporting a connection between dietary cholesterol and heart disease.
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