What correlation giveth, correlation can taketh away. Statins, taken by some 40 million Americans, may not be helping a lot of them.

Statins are used to lower cholesterol levels and reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke. They are endorsed by medical groups and the American Heart Association, but many won't benefit from these drugs based on new research. Basically, healthy people with high cholesterol aren't gaining anything.

The literature review of medical trials involving patients taking either a statin or placebo was narrowed to participants with elevated levels of low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL), the “bad cholesterol,” which can be reduced with a statin. Some individuals with high LDL also had high triglycerides (fat in the blood) and low high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the “good cholesterol,” which put them at the highest risk of having a heart attack.

People with low triglycerides and high HDL are healthier, probably because they exercise, have low blood pressure and low blood sugar. They have low risk of a heart attack. What if they also have high LDL?

The paper finds that LDL alone has “a very weak association” with heart disease and stroke. Their review went further, showing that when people with high LDL and optimal triglycerides and HDL were given a statin, there was no benefit.

“High blood pressure, obesity, smoking and high blood sugar are the primary drivers of heart disease,” claims David Diamond, a researcher in the Department of Psychology at the University of South Florida. “Cholesterol is an innocent bystander, and saturated fat in the diet has been undeservedly demonized.”

The medical community does not agree and Diamond says his views are expressed to raise awareness, another form of 'teach the controversy' but his argument that people should have a sensible diet and exercise more, perhaps to rely on drugs less, is reasonable.