How Bad is LDL Cholesterol?

We all know the term bogeyman — a fictional monster that empowers its inventor. According to Wikipedia, “parents often say that if their child is naughty, the bogeyman will get them, in an effort to make them behave.” I always think of the Falkland Islands. In 1982, by acting as if the Argentine invasion actually mattered, Margaret Thatcher got herself a big boost in popularity. In the 1960s, by acting as if Berkeley student protests were dangerous, Reagan got elected president. The day after 9/11, I said my big fear was overreaction. I doubt the persons behind the bombing understood how useful they were to those in power. Bush got a boost in popularity that lasted years.

When it comes to health, cholesterol is one of the biggest bogeymen. Hyperlipid begins a post about LDL cholesterol like this:

You would be forgiven for thinking that the apoB100 protein (which defines the LDL or VLDL particle) has been evolved over the past 4.5 billion years to cause cardiovascular disease and the less of it you have the longer you will live. Listening to a cardiologist that is (or a BBC reporter on the Today Program grovelling before a cardiologist). The lower the better. It’s impossible to have too low an LDL concentration. Statins in the drinking water. You know the patter.

The scientific paper on which his post is based concludes:

Apolipoprotein B at homeostatic levels in blood is an essential innate defense effector against invasive S. aureus infection.

Thanks to Dave Lull.

18 Replies to “How Bad is LDL Cholesterol?”

  1. I can guess at what “Apolipoprotein B at homeostatic levels in blood is an essential innate defense effector against invasive S. aureus infection.” means, but would you be so kind as to translate that into English, please?

  2. Agree about LDL; love Hyperlipid; but must pick a nit: surely you mean that Reagan was elected governor, not president, in the 1960s…?

  3. Good post. However, I detect a bit of antipathy to Conservatives and a bit of fallacious logic.

    I always think of the Falkland Islands. In 1982, by acting as if the Argentine invasion actually mattered, Margaret Thatcher got herself a big boost in popularity

    It may not have mattered to you, but it certainly mattered to the Argentines (after all they were the agressors). It also mattered to the Brits as, if what you suggest is true, her popularity benefited with a forceful British response.

    In the 1960s, by acting as if Berkeley student protests were dangerous, Reagan got elected president.

    Much too glib here and much too ex-post facto as well.

    Er, one of these protests became a riot. Riots are dangerous.

  4. Thanks, Patrik. I must disagree: I don’t think Argentine takeover of the Falklands mattered to the Brits. The Brits were fooled into caring. This is why the term bogeyman exists: the strategy works.

  5. I understand the point you are trying to make about bogeymen.

    But what evidence do you have that Argentine invasion of the Fauklands didn’t matter to the Brits? And that they were ‘fooled into caring’?

  6. Patrik, my belief that possession of the Falkland Islands didn’t matter to Brits is based on the small population of the islands (about 3000) and their economic unimportance. According Wikipedia, they are self-sufficient except for military expenditures. So apparently they are a net drain on the rest of the British economy.

  7. Seth,
    1) The Falklands are a British Overseas Territory. If the Falklands are attacked, the United Kingdom’s national sovereignty is encroached. And the UK has an obligation to its citizens to act invoke the right of self-defense.

    This matters. End of story.

    2) Having a small population is not mutually exclusive with not mattering to the Brits. As far as economics insignificance, I think you couldn’t be further from the truth. The Falklands are rich in oil and fisheries.

    In fact, the potential for oil production is one the reasons the Argentine junta ordered the invasion:

    http://www.csmonitor.com/centennial/fpaper/covers/1982.swf

    From April 5, 1982
    “Oil. Argentina, like the rest of the world, is thirsty for oil. But Argentine oil-drilling has been disappointing. Waters around the Falklands, about 400 miles off the Argentine coast, may be rich in oil – perhaps richer than the North Sea fields between Britain and Norway.

    Eighteen months ago, Argentina advertised for oil prospecters to explore an area extending into the Falklands waters. Britain protested the move. Some experts believe the Falklands area contains about 2 billion barrels of oil, which would be worth about $60 billion at current market prices.”

    Again, what evidence do you have that Argentine invasion of the Falklands didn’t matter to the Brits? And that they were ‘fooled into caring’?

  8. Patrik, here’s a sample of what Thatcher said in her autobiography: “”The significance of the Falklands war was enormous, both for Britain’s self confidence, and for our standing in the World”. Note: nothing about Britain’s economy. As far as I can tell, fish and oil played no role in the British’s government’s decision-making or public speaking about the war.

  9. Seth,
    You are clearly moving the goal posts and evading my central point. Let us start from the beginning. If I understand correctly, your assertion is the following:

    The invasion of the Falklands did not really matter to the British public because the populace is small and they are ostensibly economically unimportant, but Thatcher, wanting to increase her popularity, made it seem as if the invasion mattered, by intentionally fooling the public with the creation of a ‘bogeyman’, an imaginary threat against which she could mobilize British military forces, i.e. the very non-imaginary Argentine military forces, where the act of responding militarily to this perceived threat would thereby fulfill her real goal, that is, increase her popularity and power.

    I refute this by noting that the Falklands were/are important to the UK as the Falklanders are/were English-speaking British citizens and the Falklands are rich in oil and fisheries. The first point is obvious and paramount: one cannot allow national sovereignty to be encroached upon. It is the Prime Minister’s paramount responsibility to maintain intact that what is the United Kingdom and its overseas territories (Anguilla, Bermuda, British Antarctic Territory, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Pitcairn Islands, Saint Helena, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia, Turks and Caicos Islands).

    To put in plainly, Thatcher had an obligation to the UK and, more importantly, to the Falklanders themselves, to protect them from foreign invaders, in this case, the Argentine junta.

    There was no bogeyman. She did not create the Argentine invasion. She reacted appropriately and the public agreed.

    The second point I back up by an article written at the time noting the Argentine motive for resources. I don’t think it is a stretch to expect the UK government to have been aware of these resources. But let’s assume I am completely wrong, although your point is very weak. Let’s assume that economically the Falklands are/were unimportant. This still does bolster your bogeyman hypothesis as my first point about national sovereignty above is paramount.

    You attempt to take Maggie’s words to fit your own purposes ultimately undermine your argument i.e. that the Falklands affair didn’t matter.

    Let’s see what the entire quote is:

    The significance of the Falklands War was enormous, both for Britain’s self-confidence and for our standing in the world. Since the Suez fiasco in 1956, British foreign policy had been one long retreat. The tacit assumption made by British and foreign governments alike was that our world role was doomed steadily to diminish. We had come to be seen by both friends and enemies as a nation which lacked the will and the capability to defend its interests in peace, let alone in war. Victory in the Falklands changed that. Everywhere I went after the war, Britain’s name meant something more than it had. The war also had real importance in relations between East and West: years later I was told by a Russian general that the Soviets had been firmly convinced that we would not fight for the Falklands, and that if we did fight we would lose. We proved them wrong on both counts, and they did not forget the fact. …

    So not only was it (naturally) important to Britain to maintain national sovereignty, but it was just as important to maintain foreign policy credibility when we place this conflict in its context, the height of the Cold War*.

    I ask you again:

    Again, what evidence do you have that Argentine invasion of the Falklands didn’t matter to the Brits? That is, what overrides my national sovereignty argument? And, more importantly, that they were ‘fooled into caring’? And how were they fooled into caring?

    Lastly, in Maggie’s place, what would you have done?

  10. Patrik, yes, the British defense certainly made a difference to Falkland Islanders. Sure. But it was the average Brit who paid for that defense. The telling thing about Thatcher’s account — and I’ve heard a rumor that these accounts tend to be self-serving — is how vacuous it is. How few specifics. A Russian general, huh? That’s the best she can do? Britain had lost vast expanses before they managed to hold on to the Falklands. Thatcher is arguing it is better to lose 20-1 than 21-0. It’s a hard argument to make.

    The big effect of the Falkland War, as far as the average Brit was concerned, was exceedingly simple: It got Thatcher reelected (or at least vastly increased the probability of that event). Before the war Thatcher’s popularity was quite low. Quite likely her term would have been much shorter; she would have been replaced by a leader with much different policies. Needless to say the war was not sold on that basis. Unless that low popularity was based on something equally delusional, then — if that low popularity was a sign that Thatcher should go — then Brits truly paid a price for the Falklands War. A price that of course they weren’t warned about. This is the sense in which they were fooled.

    To say what I would have done as PM would be, unfortunately, an exercise in fantasy. It’s hard enough to explain what actually happened.

    I don’t know enough about Argentina to comment on what happened there.

  11. Seth,
    You are now completely avoiding the central point and taking tangents leading you nowhere.

    Patrik, yes, the British defense certainly made a difference to Falkland Islanders. Sure. But it was the average Brit who paid for that defense.

    So what? When Pearl Harbor was bombed, the average American was already paying for its defense, then paid to rebuild PH, and then to attack Japan. That has nothing to do with your bogyeman assertion.

    he telling thing about Thatcher’s account — and I’ve heard a rumor that these accounts tend to be self-serving — is how vacuous it is. How few specifics. A Russian general, huh? That’s the best she can do?

    Ah, I see. When YOU quote her to make your point, we should take her at her word. But when I quote her (from the very same piece) to bolster my point, we assume that she is disingenuous or even dishonest.

    Tsk tsk.

    Britain had lost vast expanses before they managed to hold on to the Falklands. Thatcher is arguing it is better to lose 20-1 than 21-0. It’s a hard argument to make.

    Your argument makes no sense. Of course, to take your analogy, it is better to lose 20-1 than 21-0. Just b/c Britain had lost vast expanses in the past, they should simply give up? And abdicate its responsibility to both the UK and the Falklanders? My house has been robbed, I should not put bars up on the windows and arm myself, to prevent additional robberies? That is her point.

    Skipping a bit forward here. You write:

    To say what I would have done as PM would be, unfortunately, an exercise in fantasy. It’s hard enough to explain what actually happened.

    You cannot place yourself in Maggie’s shoes b/c you are not sure of what actually happened yet you claim to know what would have happened had their been no war. Non sequitur.

    The big effect of the Falkland War, as far as the average Brit was concerned, was exceedingly simple: It got Thatcher reelected (or at least vastly increased the probability of that event). Before the war Thatcher’s popularity was quite low. Quite likely her term would have been much shorter; she would have been replaced by a leader with much different policies.

    Really? What would have happened, had she lost the war? Would she have been re-elected? And you know, in your heart of hearts, that she would not have been re-elected? You cannot know that. That is simply a guess.

    Needless to say the war was not sold on that basis.

    What, according to you, was it sold on?

    Unless that low popularity was based on something equally delusional, then — if that low popularity was a sign that Thatcher should go — then Brits truly paid a price for the Falklands War. A price that of course they weren’t warned about. This is the sense in which they were fooled.

    I don’t follow you at all. Please clarify.

  12. Seth,
    Apparently you opened a can of worms here in your comparisons. It seems to me you could have picked simpler and clearer comparisons not politically hot ones. If you are going to talk about LDLs – talk about LDLs. I’m sure there are about a 100,000 or so political forums and blogs where you could argue about the issues you bring up.

    For example in my writings I compare LDLs to little dump trucks carrying particles of cholesterol in the bloodstream. HDLs try to scoop up errant cholesterol and return them to the liver for disposal.

    I think these are simple concepts to understand. The problem comes in when you have too many LDLs and not enough HDLs.

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