Take a statin a day if you're male and over 50, a health expert has told us this week. Prof Robert Boyle, the UK's adviser on heart and stroke health, reckons the drug should be taken along with the morning Corn Flakes in order to keep in check high cholesterol levels.
He's right to be concerned: heart disease and stroke is the major killer in the West. But he's wrong about the remedy.
Statins such as Zocor, Zocord and Lipitor do indeed reduce levels of the 'bad' LDL cholesterol, but scientists are beginning to see cholesterol as the big red herring of modern medicine. At best, a high cholesterol level seems to be nothing more than a marker of a heart problem, not the cause of one.
Even if you don't buy that, there are more effective ways of keeping cholesterol levels down, such as through exercise and diet, and without the need for drug dependency. Statins are also not quite as safe as everyone at first believed. A recent report has found that they can increase the chance of cancer, but more common effects include liver toxicity and hepatitis, inflammation and pain in the muscles, blurred vision, headache, nausea and skin rash.
The truth is that medicine still doesn't fully understand the subtle and complex mechanisms of heart health, and the role that cholesterol plays. Until we do, use statins only with caution, and certainly not every day with the Corn Flakes.
And, while you're about it, drop the Corn Flakes too and try some fruit instead.