Study: This is How a High-Cholesterol Diet Increases Colon Cancer Risk

An increasing number of scientists now say that cholesterol doesn’t cause heart attacks, but eating a high-cholesterol diet may come with other risks, including a higher risk of colon cancer. Now, scientists understand exactly how cholesterol increases that risk. [1]

Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) have discovered a previously-unknown molecular mechanism that promoted the growth of tumors in a study of mice. The authors wrote that as cholesterol levels increased in the mice, they observed that the mice’s intestinal stem cells (ISCs) began to proliferate and cancerous tumors inside the animals began growing at a faster rate.

Senior study author Peter Tontonoz, a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, said:

“We were excited to find that cholesterol influences the growth of stem cells in the intestines, which in turn accelerates the rate of tumor formation by more than 100-fold.

While the connection between dietary cholesterol and colon cancer is well established, no one has previously explained the mechanism behind it.”

Read: Cholesterol Guidelines Updated for the First Time Since 2013

Cholesterol tends to be associated with poor health, but the body needs cholesterol to function properly. The body uses this fatty, waxy substance to make vitamin D, hormones, and compounds that aid digestion and help to form cell walls.

Cholesterol travels through the bloodstream in little “packets” of lipoproteins. There are 2 types of these lipoproteins: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) “bad” cholesterol, and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) “good” cholesterol. Cholesterol only becomes a threat when these 2 different types become imbalanced.

Scientists have known about a link between cholesterol and cancer in the past, as cancer cells tend to have higher levels of cholesterol than healthy cells. But does this mean that cholesterol itself plays a role in the development of cancer? That was the question researchers have been trying to answer.

Relate Read: Tomatoes Work as Well as Statins to Lower Cholesterol

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) maintains that research “has not shown a link between dietary cholesterol and cancer risk.”

The AICR points out:

“There is room in a cancer-protective diet for high cholesterol foods, including eggs, shrimp, and other seafood, low-fat dairy products, and moderate amounts of lean meat.”

Pinpointing the Link

Tontonoz and his colleagues think they found the missing link between cholesterol and cancer, and that link is an enzyme called Lpcat3.

Lpcat3 “unexpectedly” influences how quickly intestinal stem cells divide and multiply by controlling the production of cholesterol inside cells, the study found. Stem cells have been shown to be “cells of origin for intestinal tumors,” the team noted.

For the study, the researchers increased the level of cholesterol intake for one group of mice, and altered a gene in a second group of mice to make the animals’ cells produce more cholesterol.

The altered gene controls phospholipids, the main type of fat that goes into making cell walls.

The mice’s intestinal tissue lining expanded rapidly and the growth rate of their colon tumors sped up as a result of the increased cholesterol. The rodents’ intestines also got longer. [2]

The authors wrote:

“We showed here that high cholesterol diets feed increased cellular cholesterol in [gut] crypts and that cellular cholesterol content regulates the proliferation of ISCs.”

To summarize: Yes, there is a link between dietary cholesterol and colon cancer. Researchers knew that but didn’t know, until now, the mechanism behind the link. [1]

Tontonoz said:

“While the connection between dietary cholesterol and colon cancer is well-established, no one has previously explained the mechanism behind it.”

But his team’s finding raises another important question that needs to be investigated: Does cholesterol also cause other forms of cancer?

Read: 5 Easy Ways to Elevate Your “Good” Cholesterol Levels (HDL) Naturally

The authors wrote: [2]

“Future studies will explore whether manipulating these metabolic axes could be used as a strategy for therapeutic intervention in gastrointestinal diseases.”

The study is published in the journal Cell Stem Cell.


[1] Medical News Today

[2] Independent

Cholesterol Guidelines Updated for the First Time Since 2013

On November 12, the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology (ACC) updated the clinical guidelines for managing cholesterol for the first time since 2013. Unlike in the past, the new guidelines do not suggest a one-size-fits-all approach, but a more personalized one that allows patients to take a more active role in managing their health.

In addition to new assessments of patient risk for cardiovascular disease, the guidelines also give approval for new drugs to treat high-risk patients, and a treatment blueprint designed to help doctors and patients determine when it is appropriate to start taking cholesterol-lowering medication.

Dr. Michael Valentine, president of the ACC, said:

“High cholesterol is not one size fits all, and this guideline strongly establishes the importance of personalized care. Over the past 5 years, we’ve learned even more about new treatment options and which patients may benefit from them. By providing a treatment roadmap for clinicians, we are giving them the tools to help their patients understand and manage their risk and live longer, healthier lives.”

The go-to-treatment for high cholesterol that can’t be controlled by diet and exercise has traditionally been statin drugs. These medications can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, but it isn’t always clear when a patient should start taking them. According to the new guidelines, patients should undergo calcium artery scans before being prescribed statins when it isn’t clear how high their risk is for cardiovascular disease.

When statins don’t work for a patient – such as when an individual has suffered a heart attack or stroke, or their LDL-C levels have not been lowered by statins – the guidelines recommend the use of 2 new, cholesterol-lowering drugs. The guidelines also recommend first adding a drug called ezetimibe, in addition to statins. For more severe cases, the guidelines recommend adding a PCSK9 inhibitor drug.

Additionally, the new guidelines call for doctors to consider screening children as young as 2 for cardiovascular risk factors if they have a family history of heart disease and high cholesterol. [2]

That might sound crazy, but consider this: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data from 2015-2016 shows that nearly 1 in 5 school age children and young people aged 6-19 years old in the U.S. is obese.

What’s more, the national obesity rate among children ages 2 to 19 in the U.S. is 18.5%, according to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

The traditional view among doctors is that obesity and high cholesterol combined increases a person’s risk for cardiovascular disease, so the authors of the guidelines believe it is important to start looking out for kids’ heart health at a young age.

Dr. Sarah D. de Ferranti, chief of outpatient cardiology and director of preventive cardiology at Harvard Medical School’s Boston Children’s Hospital, said in a statement:

“It’s important that, even at a young age, people are following a heart-healthy lifestyle and understanding and maintaining healthy cholesterol levels.”

No More One-Size-Fits-All Targets

The new guidelines represent a shift in the way doctors and clinicians treat high cholesterol, but so, too, did the 2013 guidelines.

Amit Khera, MD, the director of the preventative cardiology program at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, explained that, in the past, doctors encouraged patients to reach a low LDL target, like a “magic number.” For high-risk patients, that meant an LDL level of under 70 mg/DL in the blood.

The new guidelines have eliminated that target altogether. The goal now is to curb overall risk, rather than achieving a certain cholesterol number.

The 2018 revisions expand on those from 2013, “and give doctors and patients a little more to support their decision-making,” Khera said.

The updated guidelines also created new risk assessment tools that expand on the information collected from patients. The assessments still take into account standard risk factors like smoking and obesity, but also consider family history, ethnicity, and certain health conditions, such as premature menopause in women, when determining a patient’s risk for cardiovascular disease.

The hope is that in addition to helping clinicians compile a more comprehensive understanding of their patients’ risk status, there will be more factors for patients to consider, which will hopefully motivate them to take a more active role in reducing their risk.

Khera said:

“Guidelines are only as good as implemented, and if people aren’t going to use them, they’ll be for naught. But giving patients a little more control over their care is going to improve their adherence to care. They’ll be much more likely to keep taking the medications, which is what’s going to reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease.”

Reaching a “magic” cholesterol target number can seem daunting, whereas eating more vegetables, for example, might seem more doable for a lot of people.

A New Way of Thinking

A study published in January 2018 recommends statin drugs are given to an additional 9 million U.S. adults for preventing heart attack and stroke, sparking great debate among the medical community. [3]

It’s not difficult to see why many experts disagree with that assessment.

In recent years, studies have suggested that having high cholesterol does not increase a person’s risk for heart attack and stroke. Despite the availability of every type of low-fat and fat-free food imaginable, rates of both obesity and heart disease have continued to climb. If cholesterol was indeed the culprit in cardiovascular disease, you would expect to see those numbers declining.

Several renowned cardiologists have stated that cholesterol is vital for brain matter, nerves, and all other cellular structures in the body. Moreover, they say calcium deposits in the arteries are far more dangerous than cholesterol, as cholesterol is waxy and pliable, whereas calcium deposits are hard. Therefore, cardiologists say that doctors are focusing their attention in the wrong place.

Other noted cardiologists have gone on the record stating that saturated fat, believed to increase cholesterol levels, does not cause heart disease. They note that even in people with established heart disease, reducing saturated fat alone does not reduce heart attacks.

And while statins do work for many people, the drugs are linked to over 300 adverse events. Take a look at these headlines we have covered here at Natural Society.

A Move in the Right Direction, Hopefully

Hopefully, the new guidelines will encourage people to become more engaged in lowering their risk of cardiovascular disease through diet and lifestyle, and reduce the need more even more Americans to start taking risky drugs that may or may not protect their heart health.

If you’ve been told you have dangerously-elevated cholesterol, you shouldn’t automatically assume you need to start taking pills. If your doctor suggests prescribing you a statin, discuss the idea of making lifestyle and dietary changes, such as eating a Mediterranean-style diet or including/avoiding other specific foods or food groups.

The guidelines were announced on November 10 at the AMA’s annual scientific conference and are published in the journal Circulation.


[1] Everyday Health

[2] USA Today

[3] CNN

Demonizing cholesterol is essential for the sale of dangerous statins!


The following clips are from Dr. Donald H. Miller, Jr’s article published in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, summer 2015 edition, which can be read in full here. Fallacies in Modern Medicine: Statins and the Cholesterol-Heart Hypothesis

Modern medicine has developed striking ways to treat coronary heart disease, which feature coronary stents implanted percutaneously and coronary artery bypass grafts performed surgically with the aid of a heart-lung machine. And then there are statins to lower cholesterol.

Some 43 million Americans take statins. In 2010, 11.6 percent of the population took them, 37 million, which includes 19.2 percent of people age 45-64; 39.6 percent of people age 65-74; and 44.3 percent of people age 75 and older.3 Following the 2013 ACC/AHA guidelines, an additional 10.2 million Americans without cardiovascular disease have now become candidates for statin therapy. One study concludes that 97 percent of black and white Americans age 66 to 75, including all men in that age group, should take statins.

It is a multibillion-dollar business. Pfizer’s Lipitor went on sale in 1997 and became the best-selling drug in the history of prescription pharmaceuticals before its patent expired in 2011. Sales surpassed $125 billion. AstraZeneca’s Crestor was the top-selling statin in 2013, generating $5.2 billion in revenue that year.

Government and the pharmaceutical industry fund these multimillion-dollar studies expecting correct results, so statin trial researchers employ this particular kind of statistical deception to create the appearance that statins are effective and safe. As one medical school professor puts it, “Anyone who questions cholesterol usually finds his funding cut off.”

Statins do more harm than good.

Fungi make statins, as a “secondary metabolite,” to kill predatory microbes. They also kill human cells. In a review of How Statin Drugs Really Lower Cholesterol and Kill You One Cell at a Time by James and Hannah Yoseph, Peter Langsjoen writes:

Many practicing physicians have a healthy understanding of the current level of corruption and collusion among big pharmaceutical companies, governmental agencies such as the NIH and FDA, and major medical associations [and non-profits] such as the American Heart Association, but the reader of this book will come away with the disturbing conclusion that it is even worse than imagined. Statins may be the perfect and most insidious human toxin in that adverse effects are often delayed by years and come about gradually. Further, statins frequently impair mental function to such a degree that by the time patients are in real trouble, they may lack the mental facilities to recognize the cause.

This toxin targets brain cells and skeletal muscle. A broad spectrum of adverse cognitive reactions occur from taking statins. They include confusion, forgetfulness, disorientation, memory impairment, transient global amnesia, and dementia.

Myopathy is the most common adverse effect of statin treatment, manifested by muscle aches and pains, weakness, instability, and easy fatigue. The most severe manifestation of statin-induced muscle damage is rhabdomyolysis, which carries a 10 percent mortality rate. Fragments of ruptured muscle block renal tubules and cause kidney failure. In one randomized trial of 1,016 healthy men and women given statins or a placebo, 40 percent of the women taking statins suffered exertional fatigue or decreased energy.

Several randomized controlled trials have reported a statistically significant increase in cancer associated with taking statins. In most of these trials, a small reduction in cardiovascular deaths in the statin group is counterbalanced by an increase in deaths from other causes, notably cancer, with the result that there is in no significant difference in all-cause mortality between people taking a placebo and those prescribed statins.

Statins can also cause diabetes, emotional disorders (depression, aggressiveness, suicidal ideation), hepatitis, cataracts, and strokes. Since August 2014, attorneys have filed more than 1,000 lawsuits against Pfizer, representing 4,000 women who say that taking Lipitor gave them diabetes.

Statin trials typically run for only 2 to 5 years. Investigators terminated the influential JUPITER trial endorsing statins for primary prevention of ASCVD after (a median) 1.9 years, far too short a time to reveal one of the worst “side effects” of long-term statin treatment: accelerated senescence. Statins speed up the transition from midlife vigor to debilitated old age.

Heart surgeon Michael DeBakey and his team, 52 years ago, found no correlation between blood cholesterol levels and severity of atherosclerosis in 1,700 patients undergoing surgical treatment of ASCVD. I have observed the same thing with my heart surgery patients (unpublished observation). Evidence for the cholesterol-heart hypothesis, i.e., the lipid hypothesis, wilts upon close scrutiny, as is also the case with the diet-heart hypothesis, which indicts saturated fat along with cholesterol for causing atherosclerosis. Approached with an open mind and without confirmatory bias (ignoring evidence that disagrees with one’s beliefs), substantial evidence now proves beyond a reasonable doubt that these hypotheses are wrong.

Cholesterol acts as the body’s fire brigade, putting out inflammatory fires and helping repair damage. Blaming cholesterol for atherosclerosis is like blaming firemen for the fire they have come to put out.

Cementing this molecule’s physiologic importance, there are now more than 100 peer-reviewed studies showing that low cholesterol levels are associated with earlier death.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the cholesterol-heart hypothesis is a fallacy of modern medicine. In the future, medical historians may liken the prescribing of statins to lower blood cholesterol with the old medical practice of bloodletting.


Donald W. Miller, Jr., M.D., is emeritus professor of surgery and former chief, Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, University of Washington School of Medicine. Contact:

Doctor Miller’s presentation on saturated fats and heart disease is a must see: