Does Cordain still recommend LDL below 70mg/dl?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created September 08, 2012 at 3:07 PM


Optimal low-density lipoprotein is 50 to 70 mg/dl Lower is better and physiologically normal

"The normal low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol range is 50 to 70 mg/dl for native hunter-gatherers, healthy human neonates, free-living primates, and other wild mammals (all of whom do not develop atherosclerosis). Randomized trial data suggest atherosclerosis progression and coronary heart disease events are minimized when LDL is lowered to <70 mg/dl

We live in a world very different from that for which we are genetically adapted. Profound changes in our environment began with the introduction of agriculture and animal husbandry 10,000 years ago, too recent on an evolutionary time scale for the human genome to adjust. As a result of this ever-worsening discordance between our ancient genetically determined biology and the nutritional, cultural, and activity patterns in modern populations, many of the so-called diseases of civilization, including atherosclerosis, have emerged. Evidence from hunter-gatherer populations while they were still following their indigenous lifestyles showed no evidence for atherosclerosis, even in individuals living into the seventh and eighth decades of life (15- 16). These populations had total cholesterol levels of 100 to 150 mg/dl with estimated LDL cholesterol levels of about 50 to 75 mg/dl. The LDL levels of healthy neonates are even today in the 30 to 70 mg/dl range. Healthy, wild, adult primates show LDL levels of approximately 40 to 80 mg/dl (17). In fact, modern humans are the only adult mammals, excluding some domesticated animals, with a mean LDL level over 80 mg/dl and a total cholesterol over 160 mg/dl (15- 16) (Figure 1). Thus, although an LDL level of 50 to 70 mg/dl seems excessively low by modern American standards, it is precisely the normal range for individuals living the lifestyle and eating the diet for which we are genetically adapted.

If our genetically determined ideal LDL is indeed 50 to 70 mg/dl, perhaps lowering the currently average but elevated levels closer to the physiologically normal range may improve not just CHD but also many other diseases commonly attributed to the aging process. For all of these reasons, and given the safety record of statins, some investigators have suggested that statins be considered for routine use in individuals over age 55 years."

I though that the particle size was important - not the total - or am I wrong?



on September 08, 2012
at 03:49 PM

Looking at the graph depicting the cholesterol levels of wild mammals I noticed that the level for horses (herbivore) was higher than bears (carnivore). Odd? If there are other biological processes going on that regulate cholesterol, then does this matter what the average level is for humans?

Frontpage book

Get FREE instant access to our Paleo For Beginners Guide & 15 FREE Recipes!

3 Answers



on November 19, 2012
at 12:07 AM

You know what I don't get? Why so many paleo-diet followers think it's all fine and dandy that their cholesterol is skyrocketing through the roof as long as their particle sizes are "light and fluffy"! Look at the average cholesterol numbers for primitive-style humans in figure 1 from the article: http://content.onlinejacc.org/article.aspx?articleid=1135650

Hazda: apx 110mg/dl Inuit: apx 140mg/dl !Kung: apx 120mg/dl Pygmy: apx 105mg/dl San: apx 120mg/dl

These numbers are incredibly low. More importantly, they are as close to genuine Paleolithic-era cholesterol levels as you're going to get. The rest of the data is very clear how the lowest LDL levels correspond to the lowest incidents of heart disease. I'd place my bets on the data that comes from real, primitive style people who enjoy disease-free hearts, wouldn't you?

Having said that, I'm one of those unlucky people who has chronically low HDL despite exercising and trying both VLC and standard paleo diets. My HDL is stuck below 33mg/dl and will never come up no matter what I do. It is a genetic condition according to my doctors. When I've allowed my total cholesterol levels to go up, then my HDL/LDL, TC/HDL, and TG/HDL ratios get really dangerous. However, my body responds very well to natural cholesterol lowering supplements which bring my LDL down to 70mg/dl which makes my ratios safe again, even with low HDL. So for me, luckily my LDL responds well to supplements while my HDL remains stuck. Therefore, I have been keeping my total cholesterol to 130mg/dl to stay in a safer range.



on September 09, 2012
at 04:03 PM

Noting that article is dated June 2004. In The Paleo Answer book (12/20/2011), I believe he's adjusted focus instead to the TC/HDL ratio and recognizes higher LDL may reduced inflammation.

Consider checking out another perspective from Chris Kresser starting 9/12/2012: http://highcholesterolplan.chriskresser.com/


on May 26, 2013
at 03:04 PM

@D.K., I also have had chronic low HDL (26 - 30) but in the three months that I have cut out cereal grains and limited my carbs to 100 grams, my HDL has gone up to 41 for the first time ever. I also dropped about 10 KG of weight and my BMI went from 24.5 to 21. The drop in weight was proportional to a significantly lower caloric intake and it was intentional. I have just reached my target weight and don't yet know if the changes in HDL are lasting once my macronutrient proportions change for normal weight maintenance.

Could I ask you, what "natural cholesterol lowering supplements" you are taking? I am on statins :-(

Answer Question

Get FREE instant access to our
Paleo For Beginners Guide & 15 FREE Recipes!