The Speculist: Average Adult Cholesterol is now "Ideal"


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Average Adult Cholesterol is now "Ideal"

When experts started keeping records on cholesterol in 1960, the adult average in the United States was 222 - above the "safe" level of 200. Its gotten better:

Results from a national survey that included blood tests found the total average cholesterol level dropped to 199 last year.

The difference is certainly not diet. We've grown much fatter as a nation since 1960. The difference is drugs.

Cholesterol medications are the top-selling class of U.S. drugs, and sales have grown steadily from about $13 billion in 2002 to nearly $22 billion in 2006, according to IMS Health, a Connecticut-based consulting company that monitors pharmaceutical sales.

It's funny how some are trying to find bad news in this. People who aren't taking these drugs are just as bad off as before. Well... yeah. In other news my friend suffers chronic back pain because he won't quit riding bulls at the Saturday rodeos. My back is fine.

These drugs (examples include Lipitor, Zocor, and Pravachol) are effective and have practically no side effects. Merck wants to sell another cholesterol drug Mevacor over-the-counter but the FDA is worried that consumers can't be trusted to know what's best for them.

But this study shows that consumers can be trusted to use a safe, effective drug correctly. Doctors may be prescribing these drugs, but individuals have to be trusted to take them as directed. So many people are doing so well with these drugs that the average cholesterol profile of the entire nation has improved. Maybe the FDA should relax - at least with these drugs.

I'm guessing compliance drops with drugs that have unpleasant side-effects or questionable effectiveness. What our country needs now is a drug for obesity that is just as safe, effective, and free of side-effects as these cholesterol drugs.


Are you serious? Obesity is such a money maker that there will likely never be a 'cure'

There was a point where on the rich could become corpulent, so fat was a sign of wealth. Now that literally anyone (in first world countries) can access enough food in excess of the calories required to acquire it to become obese, it's a sign of poor discipline.

Phil's ongoing weight loss log is a great example of the work it takes to lose and maintain weight in our "eat it all & then some" society.


I am quite serious. Although the sorry history of weight loss medicine certainly could give your reason to doubt.

Perhaps we should come up with a wager. :-)


Before you and MikeD reach for your wallets, you might want to consider this recent discovery.

Merck has been funding research of this type for more than 5 years now; a drug regimen that reduces myostatin production while simultaneously increasing production of follistatin would seem to be an effective treatment for obesity. Not to mention all the muscle-wasting disease's like ALS, MD, etc.

It would also have the side benefit of throwing all those anti-steroid luddite hysterics onto the side of demanding people continue to suffer obesity and disease rather than "artificially" increase their physical capabilities. I can't wait to watch Bob Costas try to defend denying such a drug to Lou Gehrig because it would make him a more muscular baseball player.

The latter issue aside, and despite my admiration for Phil's ongoing accomplishment, I for one can't wait for Merck to begin recouping it's research investment. I'm also not sure that a drug treatment necessarily qualifies as a "cure" to the standard MikeD seems to be suggesting.

If my previous example wasn't quite what you were after Stephen, how about this instead? Interrupting the mechanism that makes fat storage possible at all ought to have the desired effect ... as long as you don't take things too far, of course.

"Merck wants to sell another cholesterol drug Mevacor over-the-counter but the FDA is worried that consumers can't be trusted to know what's best for them."

The FDA may be worried about consumer abuse, but the FDA is mostly worried about Merck and other regulated entities abusing the consumer. The FDA standard for new drugs is different and harder- as it should be- when there are effective drugs already on the market.

Being dependent on prescription drugs can lead to substance abuse. Rehab centers advise the public to moderate on taking prescription drugs, in order to avoid addiction.

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