Quick summary for those who don't want to read the whole thing: Dietary changes had an enormous impact on my blood cholesterol levels. As the majority opinion on the internet seems to be that dietary cholesterol has a limited, or even beneficial impact on blood cholesterol, I'd just like to add my n=1 to the evidence to the contrary, and encourage others to test their cholesterol levels regularly when implementing significant dietary changes.
Hi, I've been reading these forums (and other paleo/primal forums) for a few years now. Over this time I've tried some pretty different dieting strategies, and being rather scientifically minded, I've kept track of my blood cholesterol levels through the different stages. I thought I'd share my experience with you guys since some of you may find it informative or interesting.
First, a little background about me. I'm male, 26, and have always been in quite good shape. I ran track in high school and college (mid distance) and started lifting seriously (first powerlifting, then olympic lifting and now bodyweight stuff) in college. I'm 6'2'', 215 (fatter than high school, but not too fat -- can still comfortably run a sub-6 mile :D ).
About 2 years ago some friends of mine introduced me to paleo. Prior to this, I had been eating a relatively healthy "typical" american diet. Fair amount of veggies and fruit, some meat, lots of grains. I weighed ~190, and my blood cholesterol was:
Pretty average by common medical standards.
About 9 months ago I adopted a very lax IF/paleo-ish diet, where my diet consisted of a lot more meat, a similar amount of veggies, and carbs at dinner only (I'd probably only eat a significant amount of carbs every other day). Most days I would skip breakfast and not eat my first meal until 3-4pm, then have my last "dinner" meal at ~11pm. This January I had my cholesterol tested again just to see what changes, if any, had occurred. At the time of the test, I weighed ~210 (there was almost two years between the first test and this one, my weight increased slowly over that time as I continued lifting), and my blood cholesterol was:
Total: 167 --> 245
Trig: 83 --> 64
HDL: 42 --> 51
Total/HDL: 4.0 --> 4.8
LDL: 108 --> 181
Obviously a lot higher. While HDL went up a bit, the total/hdl ratio also went up significantly. But I thought, maybe these poor numbers were due to me not being strict enough about my paleo diet. After all, I was still eating a lot of carbs (yes, a lot of refined carbs too). So I decided to go all out and see what would happen.
I switched my diet over almost exclusively to eggs (a lot of eggs, usually around a dozen a day), lean meat and a huge amount of veggies (I was probably eating a pound of broccoli and a pound or so of spinach/bok choy/mushrooms daily). No dairy, no refined carbs. I was also going through 4-5 oz of olive oil a day. I did one carb reefed a week, but even then I stayed away from refined carbs.
After 3 weeks I felt awful, my lifts were plummeting and I had no energy throughout the day. I finally decided to throw in the towel, and went to get my cholesterol checked once more before going off the diet. At the time bodyweight was ~205 (mostly water loss due to depleted glycogen, I'd imagine), and the results were:
Total: 167 --> 245 --> 357
Trig: 83 --> 64 --> 81
HDL: 42 --> 51 --> 59
Total/HDL: 4.0 --> 4.8 --> 6.1
LDL: 108 --> 181 --> 302 (!!)
I've never even heard of someone having an LDL score that high! The modest increase in HDL did not make me feel any better about the skyrocketing LDL number, and I decided an abrupt dietary and lifestyle change was in order.
In addition to eliminating eggs completely, I cut out almost all of the red meat, and decreased the amount of butter (yes, grassfed butter) I was using. My primary energy source became kidney beans, white rice, and oatmeal. I continued eating an enormous amount of vegetables (maybe even more), and added some fruit. Olive oil consumption remained about the same, and I started eating about 1 head of garlic a day (most of it cooked, but I usually eat a raw clove with breakfast). I also started walking 2.5 miles each day in addition to my normal training routine (lift 4-5 days a week, soccer/basketball 2-3 days a week). 5 weeks later, my bodyweight is at ~215 (water, glycogen, and a small amount of muscle, I'd imagine), and my most recent cholesterol test results were:
Total: 167 --> 245 --> 357 --> 198
Trig: 83 --> 64 --> 81 --> 109
HDL: 42 --> 51 --> 59 --> 46
Total/HDL: 4.0 --> 4.8 --> 6.1 --> 4.3
LDL: 108 --> 181 --> 302 --> 104
Yes, my LDL cholesterol dropped 200 points in 5 weeks. The added exercise could not possibly account for such a dramatic change, so it is only reasonable to attribute the majority of the results to the dietary changes. My plan is to continue with this current diet for another 2-3 months, see if cholesterol levels continue to change, then slowly add eggs back into my diet while testing cholesterol to find out a what point they start influencing my cholesterol levels.
I guess my point in writing this is twofold. First, there are a lot of hypotheses about the relationship between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol. In studies, eggs are usually used as the source of dietary cholesterol, but the upper level is usually set somewhere around 1-2 eggs per day. There is a lot less information out there regarding taking in significantly larger amounts of dietary cholesterol, so I thought my experience might provide some useful data. Second, most of my friends who subscribe to these new theories about cholesterol implement the recommended dietary strategies without ever testing to see the actual results for themselves. I hope my experience will encourage others to actually get a series of cholesterol tests done to see how levels change over time. Imagine if I had simply taken the "dietary cholesterol doesn't affect blood cholesterol" claim at face value, and never tested myself. I could have been walking around with an LDL of 300 for 5-10 years!
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Just a few comments on an interesting experiment
-The first test - call it the 80/20 - resulted in shifts similar to what I've seen posted here before. Lower trigs, higher LDL and higher HDL.
-The second test - extreme Paleo - is the most interesting. There are probably better ways to do it than with a dozen eggs a day, but there's no clear direction on which foods to use, eggs are cheap, and you did your best to follow the principle. If you had done it with fish instead of eggs maybe the LDL would not have skyrocketed. I'm surprised that your trigs started rising, maybe from the protein overload?
In retrospect I did the same kind of thing using raisin bran instead of eggs. I ended up obese, with diabetes AND high LDL. If my dr. hadn't caught the high blood sugar on a routine test I would never have known what I had done to myself. You were more prudent about getting tested, so congratulations.
Dietary Cholesterol is the cholesterol obtained from food and is different from blood cholesterol. The food obtained from animal sources contains dietary cholesterol.
According to me dietary cholesterol only has slight effect on blood cholesterol level. Saturated fat has more impact on blood cholesterol level. A particular individuals total fat intake with saturated fat has more significant affect on blood cholesterol level.
There are lots of several other foods that help reduce cholesterol especially for the patient with high LDL and boost overall wellness.
Further for Reducing Dietary cholesterol limit intake of egg yolks, organ meat, meat ad milk dairy products.
Out of curiosity H&D, what is your blood type? (A, O, B, AB)
I don't know much about fiber, but I do know that soluble fiber can lower cholesterol numbers a little.
It looks like around the time you went strict paleo, you had very little soluble fiber, though a lot of insoluble, and your numbers went up. Then when you went off paleo and started eating refined carbs (soluble fiber) your numbers dropped.
Maybe you could start eating paleo with high amounts of paleo-approved soluble fiber and see where that leads you.
So in the strict paleo blood test your triglycerides were 81, your HDL was 59 and your LDL was 302, but your total was only 357? WTF? Those numbers don't make sense, which leads me to believe there might be some fudging of the data going on.
Using the Friedewal formula to calculate your LDL, it should have been 282.
Using the "Iranian" formula your LDL should have been 251.
Something smells fishy....hope this isn't another anti-paleo troll.
Do you know what your APOE status is? I'm always curious to see those to give the lipid panel some extra context.
Do you know what your apo E gene status is? I'm always curious to see those to give the lipid panel some extra context.
Since you failed to actually ask a question, I will provide one.
What evidence can you provide that having a high numbers will in any way be detrimental to your health and longevity?
Current thinking seems to be that inflammation is the key.
You have far too many unmeasured, uncontrolled variables. For example, you said you changed your diet to exclusively eggs, some veggies, and olive oil. Then you said you changed it again to reduce the butter? Also, with such a restricted diet, your inflammation scores were probably through the roof. Thus it's hard to get any causal relationship. What we know is that dietary cholesterol plays a small part -10% in serum cholesterol. However, some fatty acids (in particular diary) have a huge effect.