The health experts slam study that suggests over-60s live longer with ‘bad cholesterol’

Lauren Hurley/PA
An overweight man in London

The report has sparked controversy in the medical world

But the review of 19 studies, involving 68,094 people, has been attacked by experts who described the results as “surprising”, “completely the wrong conclusion” and part of a “disappointingly unbalanced” paper. More than 90% of over-60s with high levels of “bad cholesterol ” live longer than those with lower levels, controversial research claims.

Prof Colin Baigent, of Oxford University , said: “It has serious weaknesses and completely the wrong conclusion.”

There are two main forms of cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL), often called “bad cholesterol” because it can build up on artery walls.

And Prof Jeremy Pearson, of the British Heart Foundation, said: “Large clinical trials demonstrate­ clearly that lowering LDL reduces risk of death overall and from heart attacks and strokes.”

He added that there there are many factors which determine health as people get older, making the impact of high cholesterol levels less easy to detect.

British Heart Foundation
British Heart Foundation
A British Heart Foundation expert criticised the study

But the scientists behind the study insisted their findings were ‘robust’ and ‘thoroughly reviewed’.

Joint author Dr Malcolm Kendrickan intermediate care GP with the Central East Cheshire Trust, said: “These are the facts but they will be considered controversial.”

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The study said: “Our review provides the basis for… a re-evaluation of the guidelines for cardiovascular prevention, in particular because the benefits from statin treatment have been exaggerated.”

Co-author Prof Sherif Sultan, from the University of Ireland, said cholesterol has benefits, adding: “Lowering cholesterol with medications for primary cardiovascular prevention in those aged over 60 is a total waste of time and resources, whereas altering your lifestyle is the single most important way to achieve a good quality of life.

“Cholesterol is one of the most vital molecules in the body and in the elderly prevents infection, intra-cerebral bleeds, cancer, premature cataracts, muscle pain and fatigue and thus must be protected and nourished.”