Last week, ABC’s Catalyst reporter Dr Maryanne Demasi presented the first part of her extraordinary study of the cholesterol phenomenon, called Heart of the Matter.
It went down well with viewers – nearly a million tuned in to make it last Thursday’s most viewed non-news program.
It didn’t go down so well with doctors and academics. This morning, the chair of the Australian Advisory Committee on the Safety of Medicines urged the ABC to pull the follow-up this Thursday, citing a danger that it could cause people not to take their anti-cholesterol drugs.
Professor Emily Banks said Dr Demasi’s report was based on “a series of anecdotes from, I think what would be broadly termed fringe-dwelling scientists or people who weren’t actually scientists”.
“We have overwhelming evidence from studies of over 900,000 participants showing a strong and graded increase in the risk of heart disease with increasing cholesterol levels,” she said.
That’s at odds with the longest study of heart disease, in the town of Framingham, Massachusetts, which is still going on today.
Catalyst lasy week reported that the Framingham data shows that after the age of 47, high cholesterol may even be protective. The people with the highest cholesterol are living the longest, weigh less and are more active.
The wrap-up deals with the issue of anti-cholesterol drugs known as statins, and how the benefits of their use may have been exaggerated.
The fallout from the report could be long-ranging and anyone would be brave to take action on it immediately.
But it’s also one of the most riveting health exposés you’ll see this year. Don’t miss it.
The program will include a note advising viewers it is not intended as medical advice.
Catalyst will air on Thursday at 8.00pm on ABC1.