Cholesterol paradox: a correlate does not a surrogate make

Evid Based Med. 2017 Mar;22(1):15-19. doi: 10.1136/ebmed-2016-110602. Epub 2016 Dec 20.


The global campaign to lower cholesterol by diet and drugs has failed to thwart the developing pandemic of coronary heart disease around the world. Some experts believe this failure is due to the explosive rise in obesity and diabetes, but it is equally plausible that the cholesterol hypothesis, which posits that lowering cholesterol prevents cardiovascular disease, is incorrect. The recently presented ACCELERATE trial dumbfounded many experts by failing to demonstrate any cardiovascular benefit of evacetrapib despite dramatically lowering low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and raising high-density lipoprotein cholesterol in high-risk patients with coronary disease. This clinical trial adds to a growing volume of knowledge that challenges the validity of the cholesterol hypothesis and the utility of cholesterol as a surrogate end point. Inadvertently, the cholesterol hypothesis may have even contributed to this pandemic. This perspective critically reviews this evidence and our reluctance to acknowledge contradictory information.


MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Coronary Disease / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Hypercholesterolemia / complications*
  • Risk Factors


  • Biomarkers
  • Cholesterol