15 year study shows that LOW cholesterol levels are associated with more hospitalizations and higher death rates from respiratory diseases

When it comes to blood cholesterol levels, the consensus among most of my MD counterparts is the lower the better.

I recently came across a very interesting study that I’d like to share the highlights of right here.
Before I do, I’d like to present 2 factual statements. 80% percent of deaths associated with covid-19 in the United States were in adults aged 65 and older. According to the CDC more than 50% of people over the age of 65 years old are on statin (cholesterol lowering) drug therapy.

Now back to the study that I came across, please check out the highlights below and I leave you with the following question to mull over:
Since the elderly are at the highest risk of dying of covid-19, is it wise to use cholesterol lowering drugs in this population.....or better yet, any age group?

So here we go:
Low cholesterol levels are associated with higher death rates from respiratory diseases

Iribarren, C test al. “Serum total cholesterol and the risk of hospitalization, and death from respiratory disease”. International Journal of Epidemiology. 1997 Dec;26(6):1191-202
This study examined the association of cholesterol levels with respiratory diseases. The study included 48,188 men and 55,276 women with an age range of 25-89, who were followed for 15 years, with a total of 976,866 person years of observation.


The study found that for patients requiring hospitalization:

  • Those with the lowest cholesterol levels, below 160 mg/dL, had a 41% increased risk of being hospitalized with pneumonia and influenza compared with those with the highest cholesterol levels, above 240 mg/dL

  • Those with the lowest cholesterol levels, below 160 mg/dL, had a 17% increased risk of being hospitalized with COPD (bronchitis and emphysema) compared to those with the highest levels, once again above 240nmg/dL

  • Those with the lowest cholesterol levels, below 160 mg/dL, had a 13% increased risk of being hospitalized with asthma compared with those with the highest cholesterol levels, above 240 mg/dL

  • Those with the lowest cholesterol levels, below 160 mg/dL, had a 35% increased risk of being hospitalized with other respiratory diseases (rhinitis, sinusitis, laryngitis, asbestosis, empyema, pulmonary fibrosis, pleurisy, rheumatic pneumonia) compared with those with the highest cholesterol levels, above 240 mg/dL


With regard to DEATH from respiratory diseases, the study found:

  • Men with the lowest cholesterol levels, below 160 mg/dL, had a 87% increased risk of death from pneumonia and influenza compared with those with the highest cholesterol levels, above 240 mg/dL

  • Women with the lowest cholesterol levels, below 160 mg/dL, had a 41% increased risk of death from pneumonia and influenza compared with those with the highest cholesterol levels, above 240 mg/dL

  • Men with the lowest cholesterol levels, below 160 mg/dL, had a 35% increased risk of death from bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma compared with men with the highest cholesterol levels, above 240 mg/dL

  • Women with the lowest cholesterol levels, below 160 mg/dL, had a 79% increased risk of death from bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma compared with women with the highest cholesterol levels, above 240 mg/dl

  • Men with the lowest cholesterol levels, below 160 mg/dL, had a 96% increased risk of death due to other respiratory diseases (rhinitis, sinusitis, laryngitis, asbestosis, empyema, pulmonary fibrosis, pleurisy, rheumatic pneumonia) compared with those with the highest cholesterol levels, above 240 mg/dL

  • Women with the lowest cholesterol levels, below 160 mg/dL, had a whopping 126% increased risk of death due to other respiratory diseases (rhinitis, sinusitis, laryngitis, asbestosis, empyema, pulmonary fibrosis, pleurisy, rheumatic pneumonia) compared with those with the highest cholesterol levels, above 240 mg/dL


Conclusion:
The results of this 15 year study show that low cholesterol levels are associated with more hospitalizations and higher death rates from respiratory diseases.
I’m definitely not telling anyone out there to stop taking their prescribed medication but I think the presented information should absolutely warrant at least a conversation with your physician.......regardless of your age.