I treat many clients with personal or family histories of high cholesterol, heart disease, heart attack, coronary stenting, bypass surgery, heart failure and strokes. For all of these patients CHOLESTEROL is a BIG concern. A LOW CARB approach to dieting is the surest way to fix a problem with CHOLESTEROL! Having a poor cholesterol profile (NOT total cholesterol) is a metabolic problem that requires a metabolic fix--- in other words, bad cholesterol is BEST AND MOST properly treated with diet! NOT MEDICATIONS!! Cholesterol science is everchanging and recommendations have evolved! YOUR DOCTOR may be giving you OUTDATED ADVICE! I will try below to clear up some misinformation that still runs rampant among both laypersons and physicians! FYI- my EVOLUTION course covers some great info about fats and cholesterol.
Cholesterol has a long and checkered past within the last 50 years….
When the OBESITY epidemic began picking up speed in our country 50 years ago it was (wrongly) ASSUMED that we were all getting fatter because we ATE TOO MUCH FAT! Scientists at the time hotly debated whether FAT was actually the culprit vs CARBS (after all cows and hippos ate PURE CARBS and were among the fattest mammals… lest you forget, humans are mammals too!)
Never the less, to politicians wanting to "weigh in" on the debate and DO SOMETHING for Americans it seemed obvious enough (why wait for scientists to figure it out?)— dietaryFAT must be limited. Hence, the government created the first nutrition recommendations and the food pyramid was born. Food manufacturers immediately followed gov’t recommendations by removing FAT from products and creating CARB laden foods while recommending against full fat dairy, eggs, and meat products. (After 50 years of follow up nutrition research WE KNOW this was a MISTAKE!! FAT on and in your body comes from EXCESS CARB INTAKE!!)
By the 1980’s the LOW FAT food industry was booming and OBESITY and HEART DISEASE were still on the rise. Newer science at the time supported that MAYBE the government was not all wrong-- perhaps it was the “type” of fat that should be limited, not ALL FAT. New studies showed how blood vessels of the deceased were filled with a specific type of fat called cholesterol. It wasn’t until the 1980’s that doctors even began even testing for total cholesterol. It took years after to discover that cholesterol itself could be broken down by scientists and measured….
Fast forward: So what do we know about cholesterol today??
Cholesterol plays an EXTREMELY important role in many of the systems in your body. Most importantly- blood transport-- which is WHY it is found in large quantity in the blood vessels themselves! It is so important that your body actually MANUFACTURES cholesterol!! YES! We make it!
How much cholesterol you eat has nothing to do with your "absolute level" of total cholesterol. I bet you haven’t noticed how the recommendations to NOT EAT YOLKS and NOT EAT SATURATED FATS by the American Heart Association have quietly DISAPPEARED from the small print. This is because REAL science, not assumptions, does not support this.
So what DOES matter when it comes to cholesterol?
Your cholesterol "profile" DOES MATTER. This includes your HDL (good cholesterol), VLDL (very low density lipoproteins—bad cholesterol), and triglycerides. Total cholesterol may swing up and down. During the early portion of a low carb diet, it may, in fact, go UP due to your fat cells emptying out!
Total LDL (formerly the bad guy) does not matter as much as VLDL. If you have a doctor that has not ordered a FULL cholesterol PROFILE containing all of these numbers then your doctor needs to be re-educated regarding cholesterol. Some doctors order the FULL PANEL for cholesterol and don’t actually know how to interpret it. If your doctor completed schooling before 2005 their education is outdated. Even newly trained doctors could be learning from older docs who are poorly informed. There is new and emerging information about cholesterol and it's importance to our health daily.
Let me point you in the direction of some of the doctors and scientists I trust regarding this subject. Check out some of these links to further educate yourself:
Video: https://drhyman.com/blog/2016/01/14/7-ways-to-optimize-cholesterol/ addresses the best 7 ways to optimize cholesterol
Podcast: The Diet Doctor with Bret Scher, cardiologist. Episodes 3 and 9 discuss cholesterol in detail
Documentary/Movie: Fat Fiction Leading health experts examine the facts and myths of saturated fats in the human diet, and question why medical advice has remained the same for decades as health issues proliferate in America.
Lastly, do I think it’s time you got off your cholesterol medication?
If you are planning on sticking with your new low carb diet – YES!!!!!! Dump that crap in the garbage! The side effects of STATINS are WELL DOCUMENTED whereas the clinical evidence to support their use is limited at best! Besides, you have the ability to raise your HDL and drop the bad guys (VLDL and triglycerides) by just eating wisely! For those at highest risk of heart disease, let's proceed with caution... go ahead and stay on your drugs for 6 months. After that, if your numbers look great and you are a low carb expert, dump the drugs!
DON'T WORRY! I'VE GOT YOU COVERED WITH FIXING THAT CHOLESTEROL!!