Despicable. Diabolical. Beyond Homicidal.

My head is about to explode. Today, at the American Heart Association conference, a panel from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute will be recommending cholesterol testing for children as young as 9. The reason? Screening more than 20,000 fifth graders turned up a bunch of undiagnosed cases of high cholesterol. Since high cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease -- more on this in a moment -- obviously we have to catch this early! We have to intervene! We have to do it for the chiiiilllldreeeen!

This is not just wrong. This is evil. This is diabolical. I strongly suspect that this is nothing short of an attempt by the pharmaceutical industry to dig up a whole new market for statin drugs.

"But, Dana," some of you are thinking, "these kids have high cholesterol, and that could give them heart disease. Why not intervene now?" I'm afraid there's no short-form answer to that question. Pour yourself a cup of coffee, and I'll tell you.

First of all, let's get back to the whole question of risk factors. I've written about this in the past. "Risk factor" sounds like it increases your risk. It does not. It simply means that two things are correlated -- happen together. And one of the primary rules of science is (let's all say it together) Correlation is not causation. Just because two things happen together does not mean that one causes the other. You see more people wearing white shoes in the summer. That does not mean that an increase in white shoes causes sweltering heat and sauna-like humidity. Wearing white shoes will not end a cold snap. Changing to a nice pair of black patent leather pumps will not end a heat wave. Got it?

Roughly half of people who have heart attacks never had high cholesterol. This alone tells us that elevated blood cholesterol cannot be the cause of heart disease.

You'll notice that they're not recommending that we test children for LDL/HDL ratios, triglycerides, or LDL particle size, all of which are far more predictive of heart disease than total cholesterol -- and all of which predictably improve with a low carbohydrate diet, I might add. Why? Could it be because there's no drug that fixes these problems?

You know what's going to happen: They're going to test kids, especially fat kids (God bless 'em, I was one of them, and it's a very hard row to hoe), for total cholesterol, and, surprise, surprise, they're going to find that some of them have cholesterol over 200 -- which, since cholesterol over 200 is actually pretty damned normal, is to be expected. And what are they going to tell the parents? "You've got to put Junior on a low fat, low cholesterol diet, with lots of healthy whole grains."

And sure as Congress is going to disappoint us this year, that "healthy diet" is going to fail miserably. The kid is going to get fatter, and -- since a low fat, low cholesterol diet does nothing beneficial -- his blood work is going to stay ugly. That's when the doctor, going on the information coming from the "experts" at places like The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and American Heart Association, is going to recommend that Junior start on Lipitor.

The very idea fills me with horror. Why? Because what all the ads pushing statins don't tell you is that 1) there is NO EVIDENCE that statins do anything to prevent heart attacks in anyone who hasn't already had one, and 2) -- and more importantly -- these drugs have major, ugly side effects.

Most common is muscle pain and weakness. You know that along with that low fat diet, Junior is going to be told to switch from X-Box to exercise. Yet at the very time that children should be approaching their physical peak, we may be pressured to put them on drugs that make them weak and tired.

But more frightening, much more frightening, are the reports of transient global amnesia and even dementia associated with statin use. This is being hotly denied by the pharmaceutical industry, but the anecdotal reports are many and disturbing. Dr. Duane Graveline's SpaceDoc site has a lot of info, including Graveline's story of his own experience.

It's not particularly surprising. After all, the brain is extremely rich in cholesterol; is it a big shock that using powerful drugs that lower cholesterol levels may affect cognition? It's bad enough that most kids no longer eat cholesterol and DHA*-rich eggs for breakfast, having traded them for highly processed, sugar-laden cold cereals. Now it appears we are heading toward giving brain-killing drugs to those whose brains are still developing -- with absolutely NO RESEARCH regarding the long-term effects of those drugs on children. I have a nightmarish vision of an America where millions have dementia before their hair turns gray, brought on by early statin use.

All of this to treat a "risk factor" that actually causes no harm -- and in the process, further line the pockets of Big Pharma. Hey, eventually they can sell them all Aricept, too.

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute is part of the National Institutes of Health, and receives federal funding, it is true. Ignoring entirely the huge influence of big money over the federal government, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute website has an extensive list of other funding sources:

* Alpha-1 Foundation
* American Asthma Foundation
* American College of Rheumatology
* American Heart Association
* American Lung Association
* American Thoracic Society
* Aplastic Anemia and MDS International Foundation, Inc.
* Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
* Barth Syndrome Foundation, Inc. (Cardiomyopathy, Neutropenia, Skeletal Muscle Weakness, Growth Delay)
* CFIDS Association of America, Inc. (Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome)
* Children's Cardiomyopathy Foundation (CCF)
* Children's Heart Foundation
* Cooley's Anemia Foundation, Inc.
* Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
* Fanconi Anemia Research Fund, Inc.
* Foundation for Sarcoidosis Research
* Francis Families Foundation - the Parker B. Francis Fellowship Program in Pulmonary Research
* Histiocytosis Association of America
* Juvenile Diabetes Foundation
* LAM Foundation (Lymphangioleiomyomatosis)
* Leukemia and Lymphoma Society
* Lupus Foundation of America, Inc.
* Lymphatic Research Foundation
* Lymphoma Research Foundation
* National Blood Foundation
* National Hemophilia Foundation
* National Marfan Foundation
* National Organization for Rare Disorders, Inc.
* National Sleep Foundation
* Preeclampsia Foundation
* Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation
* Pulmonary Hypertension Association, Inc.
* Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation
* Scleroderma Foundation
* S.L.E. Foundation, Inc. (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus)
* Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) Alliance

Sounds tremendously serious and right-minded, doesn't it? Until you remember that too often the term "association" or "foundation" is a screen for big corporate money. Various business and political interests form "associations" and "foundations" all the time. I looked at the websites of several of these foundations and associations, and discovered that while they all have links you can click to become a corporate sponsor, nowhere do they list those proud corporate sponsors (in contrast to the American Diabetes Association who, last I knew, listed their "Banting Level" donors on their website.)

However, further googling turned up info on the best-known of these organizations, and the one to which this paper is being presented. It came as no surprise to me that The American Heart Association accepts tens of millions of dollars from pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers, and a couple million more per year from deals with food processors, selling them the right to put the AHA "check" on their packages. (Did you know that General Mills and Quaker and Pepperidge Farm pony up big bucks to get the AHA's imprimature? It's a trademark, nothing more.) Corporate contributors of over $100,000 include:

* AstraZeneca LP
* Sanofi-Aventis
* Bayer Corporation
* Braman Motors
* Bristol-Myers Squibb Company
* Centocor Inc.
* Clear Channel Outdoor
* ConAgra Foods
* CV Therapeutics
* GlaxoSmithKline
* IBM Co.
* King Pharmaceuticals
* KOS Pharmaceuticals
* Merck & Co., Inc.
* Microlife Co.
* Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp.
* Omron
* PacifiCare
* Pfizer, Inc.
* Procter & Gamble Company
* Reliant Pharmaceuticals
* Roche Diagnostics
* Ross Stores
* Sanofi
* Schering-Plough Corporation
* Subway
* Taketa Pharmaceuticals North America
* Toyota Motor Co.
* Walgreen Co.

Toyota? I'm not sure why they're there, but Novartis, Pfizer, Roche, Schering-Plough, Merck, GlaxoSmith Kline, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Bayer, AstraZeneca, these are the big boys of the Big Pharma world, and ConAgra is one of the biggest of the food giants. I have long considered the American Heart Association to be nothing more than salesmen for the pharmaceutical companies and food processors.

I'm sure they'll be very excited about the idea of testing a whole, new potential market. People, protect your children.

* DHA is the primary structural component of the brain and nervous system.