Would you like statins with that?


For the 2.5 million people who eat a fast food meal every day, there may be an answer to helping prevent high cholesterol. UK researchers are suggesting fast food outlets hand out the cholesterol-lowering drugs, which would cost about 5p.

Yet again, it seems ill-founded medical advice is being used to regulate and control people’s lives. Whilst the researchers at Imperial College London have apparently taken "data from trials of almost 43,000 people to calculate whether the statins could override the effects of eating a junk food diet", finding that a daily statin can ‘neutralise the risk of cardiovascular disease linked to a daily intake of a 7-oz cheeseburger and a small milkshake’, one wonders why the debate has to arise in the first place.

Although statins do have occasional side effects, they have transformed the lives of many people with high blood cholesterol. Those with high dietary cholesterol are going to see very little effect from a drug developed to control cholesterol produced by the liver. A very large and prolonged intake of junk good will feed through into the blood to some extent, but statins won’t affect that part of cholesterol.

The idea from Imperial is that the effect of the statins will off-set the effect of junk food; it will not directly neutralize it. However, there are drugs, such as ezetimibe, that actually inhibit the absorption of dietary cholesterol, and these might be more appropriate. Ezetimibe appears to be under-prescribed, probably because it encourages people to eat junk food.

If statins are appropriate for individuals, then they are appropriate irrespective of whether they eat junk food. It is a matter for them and their medical advisers – not the nanny state.