The cholesterol fallacy

Evan spotted the kiosk set up in the middle of the local mall. "Free cholesterol screenings. Know your heart health!" the sign declared.

It was a free cholesterol screening being offered by a local hospital.

The friendly nurse behind the kiosk had Evan fill out a form, then pricked his finger. Five minutes later, she reported to him with a smile, "Sir, your cholesterol is 177--your heart's fine! We get concerned when cholesterol is over 200. So you're in a safe range."

What the nurse failed to recognize is that Evan's HDL was 30 mg, a low value that actually places him at high risk for heart disease. Low HDL also signifies high likelihood of the small LDL particle pattern, a marked predisposition towards pre-diabetes and diabetes, a probable over-reliance on processed carbohydrates in his diet, a dramatically increased probability of hidden inflammation (e.g., elevated C-reactive protein), increased tendency for high blood pressure. . .

In other words, Evan's "favorable" total cholesterol is, in truth, nonsense. It's misleading, falsely reassuring, and provided none of the insight that a real effort might have yielded. Like hippies, tie-dye, other relics of the 1960s, total cholesterol needs to be put to rest. It has served many people poorly and been responsible for countless deaths.

When you see a kiosk or other service like this, even if it's free, run the other way.