I was thinking about performing a N=1 experiment to see if I could hack a cholesterol test. I'm not at all worried about my levels (around 220), but I worry that I might need to get a test for insurance purposes, and they don't care that my heart scans show no blockage.
Common wisdom says that you can't have any great influence on cholesterol levels for testing, yet still insist that you fast. I have noticed that other bloodwork markers are greatly influenced by things like proper hydration, alcohol, sweets, etc. Most of us don't get cholesterol tests every week because we assume that it doesn't change that rapidly, but I've learned that common wisdom is frequently wrong or misguided.
I don't want to lower my cholesterol long term, just to "pass" an insurance companies tests. These ideas are not about eating right and paleo, but about body hacking.
Ok, having said that, I was thinking about getting a baseline test, then doing a week of changing a variable and testing again for a month or two. Some possible variables are:
- No Dairy
- No Alcohol
- Low Fat
- Fasting and MCTs
- Niacin and Supplements (red yeast rice?)
Any other ideas or suggestions? Has anyone ever tried something like this?
FEEDBACK - Good suggestions so far. It seems like I should try a week of "traditional" foods, like beans, oats, low-fat, etc. Anything else?
UPDATE - I think I might have to shorten the window for this experiment. I am a family man, so I can't just eat what I want from the rest of the family for a month. Do you think I could make an impact in 1 or 2 days?
Here's my ideas so far... Any feedback is helpful.
- Get a control test in the morning. A typical fasting since dinner the night before.
- Consume nothing but coffee, tea, water and coconut oil for the whole day. Drink lots of water.
- Get a test in the morning.
- Go back to my normal paleo life for a week.
- Get a control test.
- Eat low-fat, standard recommended fare (oats, beans, etc) for the rest of the day. No dairy, no alcohol.
- Get a test in the morning.
- Get back to normal for a week.
- Control test
- Same paleo diet, but take Niacin, activated charcoal, red yeast rice. Don't overdo the fat, though.
- Morning Test
- Reset Week
- Exercise like crazy and barely eat anything.
Does that sound good, or does anyone have any other ideas/suggestions?
UPDATE 7-17-13 Ok, I decided to wait until September, after all the vacations and interruptions on normal life to start the test. I'll update my info when available.
Experiment 1: 8-7-13 I got an opportunity to do a full day fast, so I'm doing the fasting part of the experiment: I last ate at 7:30 PM and got my cholesterol checked at 9:00 AM this morning. The results are:
- Total Cholesterol - 239
- HDL - 49
- Trg - 134
- LDL - 163
My plan is to fast all day, drinking nothing but coffee, tea, broth and water. I reluctantly skimmed the fat off the broth, so the calorie content is minimized.
I'll get my cholesterol checked at the same place using the same machine tomorrow at 9:00 AM (for a total of a 37.5 hour fast) and I will post the results tomorrow.
Experiment 1: Day 2 Ok, after an additional 24 hours of fasting, I got my cholesterol checked again.
The result are:
- Total Cholesterol - 285
- HDL - 42
- Trg - 214
- LDL - 200
Interesting!!! All I had to eat in 37.5 hours was black coffee, hot tea, a bit of bone broth and water and my numbers shot up dramatically! I used the same Pharmacy and machine to get tested, so even if there's some calibration issues, the results are still out of the range of typical errors.
I have a few opinions on what happened, but I'd rather hear from all of you out there to get some different ideas. But, the conclusion of the first experiment is that Paleo people shouldn't do a long fast before getting a cholesterol check.
Side Note - The pharmacist called me out of the blue later that day to say that he ordered a calibration kit for the testing machine to confirm if everthing was working correctly because he couldn't believe the results. He also said that I was the only one to get tested those days, so no one else had used it. Clearly, I got his attention!
Additional Note: I've shared my results with my coworkers as they sometimes enjoy/get amused at my little health experiments. They almost all believe what's been said about not being able to change the results of your cholesterol levels quickly, so they all think that there might be something wrong with the testing machine. Intersting... they can't believe the theory is wrong, so they have to blame the machine.
Additional Research I checked a couple different sources, and apparently getting cholesterol checked when you're losing weight isn't recommended because you're using fat as a fuel source, therefore have more floating around the blood. Since I'm usually hovering around the fat burning stage most of the time (due to lower carb intake), I'm sure I was in serious fat burning mode by the 36th hour of fasting. If I were a SAD eater, I'd probably be burning through my sugar and glycogen stores.
That being said, maybe my next experiment should be the opposite. Perhaps I should carb load with starchy things (potatoes, yams, rice?) and limit fats the night before the test. If I were getting tested for insulin or blood glucose, it probably won't look good, but I'm just focusing on cholesterol numbers.
Call from Pharmacists - One of the pharmacists who did my tests called me today to let me know that they tested the calibration of the machine (whatever that means) and determined that it was working fine and that the numbers I got were accurate (at least for a fingerstick test). It's interesting that both of the pharmacists there are now taking an interest in my experiment and they said they're looking forward to my next one (which probably won't be for a few more weeks).
Experiment 2 Since I last experiment raised my cholesterol when I was in heavy fat burning mode, I decided to try it the other way around this time. I just got back from vacation where I had way too much sugary foods and drinks and little to no exercise. I figure that my glycogen stores are filled up, so I have a good resevoir to pull from to keep me from burning fat. I then will have a low fat type of diet for a day or two and see what happens. I'll post my results as they come in.
Experiment 2 : 8-30-2013 After a holiday of behaving badly, my control numbers are high.
- Total Cholesterol - 291
- HDL - 50
- Trg - 352
- LDL - 171
Wow, alcohol and sugar really ramps up that triglyceride level, doesn't it. Now for a day of lowfat starchy carbs (lentils, bean soup, rice).
Experiment 2 : 8-31-2013 Results are a bit disappointing. I apparently went too far with my "carb reefed," especially since most of my carbs were sugary alcoholic drinks. I can't determine if the changes are just me getting back to normal, or if it was the dietary change. I did notice a few things that lets me know I'm on the right track with my regular diet. After almost 48 hours of hardly any fat, I woke up hungry for the first time in years. I almost fell asleep after lunch, which I haven't done for years either. I felt tired and cranky. Upon returning to my normal high(er) fat diet, I started feeling good again. I don't think I'll try this experiment again anytime soon.
The Results: - Total Cholesterol - 273 - HDL - 41 - Trg - 328 - LDL - 166
Conclusions: I'm not sure if I learned too much from these tests except that cholesterol levels can change, and that these tests are only a snapshot of what's flowing through my blood. Most of us here know that there's so much wrong with the conventional wisdom about cholesterol, and judging from the reaction of the pharmacists and people around me, people have a hard time believing that there could be so much variation.
I've been keeping track of my cholesterol for almost 8 years, and I can see a decent sized drop in total cholesterol and a big raise in HDL when I started eating and exercising paleo. Most of my numbers hover around where my very first control test was, so I have a generally good idea of what my norm is.
Thanks for all the information that everyone provided. I have learned quite a bit more than I did before. Please feel free to add more comments. My learning about health is always ongoing.
asked byAnon_9 (2771)
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on July 13, 2013
at 09:47 PM
Try adding exercise as well! Drinking plenty of water... You can find more options by typing low cholesterol diet. Let us know if you were able to pass the test.I might need that also in a few months...
on August 14, 2013
at 07:22 PM
This is very interesting and I've contemplated the possibility to try the very same hack both for me and my dad. Specially for my dad because he has been in statins due to a hearth attack and I'm pretty sure that if his LDL skyrockets they will put them again on them, I don't want this to happen so I need to hack his cholesterol also, I'm also interested to fake my docs in several kind of situations when I don't want them to point to a certain problem to LDL, I've noticed that when they see high total cholesterol and LDL they give you a tablet full of SAD directions and not look for any other causes, so I want them to not focus on cholesterol, so I'd better lower it for a short period. Althought I must admit, it would be nice to not get more than 220 or so on a general basis, ok I do not fully believe in the lipid hypothesis but not sure also that having constant high LDL is a thing not to worry...
OK that being said, I think that a diet with moderate carbs that match a ratio of 1:1 carbs to protein and with not very high GI stuff and lots of fiber, pectin rich foods (apples and grapefruit) and resistant starch would do the trick nicely. Also lower you fat intake as much as you can, specially saturated and omega 6's, I'd say having only low fat dairy would be adviseable. Remember, I hear you, we're not discussing an optimal diet but a fast way to lower LDL and total cholesterol.
I think that a Perfect Health Diet approach could serve you well also, most people on it report pretty great numbers because they stay in a moderate carb scheme. When you go too much low on carbs, it seems that LDL receptors are downregulated via poor T4 to T3 conversion so the thyroid works slower and it seems that carbs stimulate the thyroid.
You might be interested also in that guy's N=1: http://bjjcaveman.com/2013/06/23/the-effect-of-a-ketogenic-diet-on-cholesterol-part-4/
I'd also get rid of the coconut oil for some time, I'm not saying that it might not be terrific for many reasons but it's also known that might rise both HDL and LDL. If you drop 10 points on HDL your doc won't look bad at this but if you raise 30 your LDL he will so I'd play it safer.
I think that some liver cleanse herbs and NAC could help, the liver is pretty important regulating LDL, you want it optimal.
See Examine.com related supps and stuff that seems to lower cholesterol: http://examine.com/topics/Total+Cholesterol/
As a fast hack, berberine seems to do wonders.
Please keep us informed!
on August 14, 2013
at 06:23 PM
A 4 oz. serving of oyster mushrooms has as much lovastatin in it as a pill of Mevacor. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lovastatin http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pleurotus_ostreatus
You could eat a couple servings a day for a few weeks before your test.
Another idea is to dilute your blood by donating a pint 24 hours before the test.
on August 09, 2013
at 03:06 PM
This is a fairly well documented phenomina that fasting causes an acute increase in total cholesterol. although your numbers are not consistent. I am particularly interested in the increase in trigs.
It is well documented that fasting can increase HDL and LDL (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0939475312002578). But there should be a slight dip in trigs. Given that you have a calculated LDL using the freidwald formula, the increase in the LDL is consistent with the increase in the Trigs.
I would wager that the coffee is to blame for the increased trigs. Do you use a paper filter? or do you use a metal filter/ french press/ peculator/ etc.
on July 09, 2013
at 01:47 AM
Add oats. They have been known to be healthy for decades in regards to heart health. Also add some sources of resistant starch.
on July 08, 2013
at 08:40 PM
A word of caution about niacin. Besides known to cause flushing, which for me is unpleasant and quite weird, it causes an increase in stomach acid production. Definitely avoid niacin if you have an ulcer or have had an ulcer recently. I learned this lesson the hard way. After only 3 days on 200 mg of niacin my old ulcer started to reawaken.
As for diet and cholesterol, after going full Paleo (and low carb) for a years my total cholesterol went up some, as did LDL. However triglycerides plummeted, and my HDL increased by 30%. So on balance Paleo did wonderful things for me. However if your insurance company stupidly only eyes TC and LDL going Paleo may work against you. ... Having said all this, my cholesterol levels were very low to begin with. Therefore my experience might not be entirely relevant for you.
on July 08, 2013
at 02:25 PM
You could eat a week of reduced-fat high-fibre ketogenic diet and supplement with activated charcoal. Then a fasted HIIT session donating blood within a few hours and then having blood drawn for the cholesterol test. Also activities that raise testosterone would probably help too.
on September 02, 2013
at 03:49 PM
re updates: yow! Those trigs are scary high, never mind the cholesterol. Better lay off the mai tais and see your doctor. When mine got that high I was put on gemfibrozil. Weight loss, eating less high glycemic carbs and exercise drove my TG's down below 100.
on August 09, 2013
at 11:38 PM
What are your main sources of fat? I don't eat dairy and most of my fat comes from cashews, olive oil, avocadoes, and beef fat, and my total cholesterol was very low. How about fiber? Fiber is known to lower cholesterol. I personally get in about 40-55 grams daily, another reason my cholesterol could have been so low.