My hat’s off to Imperial College London researchers who found a way to turn cholesterol-lowering statin drugs into a punch line.
Here’s the ICL plan: Fast food restaurants should give out free statin pills to customers to offset the unhealthy effects of junk food.
You’ve got to love it: “Thanks for coming to McDonald’s. Here’s your food. And here’s the antidote to your food.”
This seriously strange plan was cooked up after the ICL team reviewed seven statin trials and came to the conclusion that a daily statin can erase the heart-harmful effects from daily consumption of a Quarter Pounder with cheese and a small milkshake.
I wonder what pill they have in mind to erase the massive weight-gain from 365 Quarter Pounders plus 365 milk shakes per year? (These two menu items alone provide more than half the calories in a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet.)
Ketchup & cataracts
The ICL paper was published in the American Journal of Cardiology, which is a pretty odd name for a humor magazine.
Here’s one of my favorite quotes from the paper: “We propose that the fast food industry is well placed to offer advice and supplements to counteract the cardiovascular harm arising from the foods they purvey.”
First–please don’t give dietary supplements a bad name by using the word “supplements” in place of “statins.” A multivitamin is a supplement. A statin is a chemical experiment in a pill. Big difference.
And second–the fast food industry is well placed to offer cardiovascular advice? Well no surprise there! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stopped at a fast food restaurant and thought, “I’ll bet the shift manager could give me some sound cardiovascular advice–unless he’s at the prom!”
The ICL team also has an idea for how to deliver free statins with every meal: “A generic statin could be added to the panoply of items in the self-service tray at little additional cost.”
Brilliant! Just step up to the condiment bar and grab packets of ketchup, mustard, salt, pepper, and statins.
ICL lead researcher, Dr Darrel Francis, told the BBC: “It’s ironic that people are free to take as many unhealthy condiments in fast food outlets as they like, but statins, which are beneficial to heart health, have to be prescribed.”
No. It’s not ironic. I think the phrase Dr. Francis is looking for here is “completely appropriate.” Because– newsflash!–Ketchup doesn’t cause muscle damage or cataracts.
Here’s what IS ironic: The BBC article about the ICL statin scheme includes a link to a May 2010 BBC article titled “Unintended Statin Side-Effect Risks Uncovered.” And that in itself is pretty laughable–as if researchers suddenly, just this year, made the startling discovery that statins have side effects.
The May BBC article notes that for every 10,000 women treated with statins, these side effects will occur: More than 300 will develop cataracts, nearly 25 will have acute kidney failure, 73 will develop liver dysfunction, and 39 will have muscle weakness. And the list ends with this note: “Figures were similar for men, except there would be 110 extra cases of muscle weakness.”
And as we now know, statin-related muscle weakness is a symptom of muscle damage.
So just imagine the side effect consequences if every McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, KFC, Taco Bell, Dominos, etc., put out complimentary statins for their customers. Hundreds of thousands of people would take them every day– adults, teens, even young kids–and the mounting side effects over the years would be devastating.
You can just imagine young mothers (many with cataracts and aching muscles) telling their Happy Meal children, “Take the pills. They’re good for you. They make the food healthy!”
To Your Good Health,
“Can a Statin Neutralize the Cardiovascular Risk of Unhealthy Dietary Choices? American Journal of Cardiology, Vol. 106, No. 4, 8/15/10, sciencedirect.com
“Give Out Statins with Junk Food” BBC, 8/12/10, bbc.co.uk
“Unintended Statin Side-Effect Risks Uncovered” BBC, 5/20/10, bbc.co.uk