Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Speaking of Quiche…Cholesterol

The sun finally came out, so I spent most of the day Sunday weeding my garden and looking for the plants that I'd actually planted. I did manage to find most of them. I discovered that being able to squat rather than crawling around in the dirt is a very useful (and fairly new) skill. I also discovered that six hours of squatting while weeding makes one very sore the next day. Especially when the next day is deadlift day at the gym.

There was a bit of discussion about cholesterol, and how to treat it, in the comments of the last post. I thought I'd talk a little bit about it. Keep in mind that I'm not a physician and you need to decide for yourself what will work for your situation.

When you read the history of all the studies that have been done regarding heart disease, cholesterol, etc., it becomes obvious that a lot of the stuff that the medical profession and the USDA tell us is the “right” way to eat is based more on politics and who was the “popular” researcher at the time than on good science. It can really piss you off when you start thinking about it. Especially if you have a disease that can’t be controlled as a direct result of these accepted studies. Go read chapter one of Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes for a really thorough discussion about this.

Jenny over at Diabetes Update has some interesting things to say about this today. Cholesterol must be the hot topic this week. She talks about lowering your LDL and the affect, or lack of, that statins have on reducing clogged arteries. It's worth a read. Also, check out what she had to say a few posts ago about the link between statins and how they affect insulin sensitivity.

As I've mentioned, when I started all of this back in October, I had fairly high blood sugar readings and high cholesterol. Past doctors have been very pushy about having me take statins and I've always refused to take them. It just never felt like the right thing for me since I've always had an acceptable ratio of LDL to HDL.

And frankly, I don't put much stock in the whole "cholesterol bad" movement. I never really have. I tend to be a little suspicious of all these studies that come out and end up on the evening news as sensationalistic "preliminary findings." This is not where we should be getting our health advice.

That being said, fast forward to my most recent set of labs compared over the last 7 years:

Basically, what you're looking at is the relationship between exercise and cholesterol numbers from 2002 until the last test in November where my diet had radically changed. The two items that are flagged high are barely high.

Now here's the catch: The only thing I stopped eating between 2006 and 2007 were grains, processed foods and sugar. I still eat butter, I've switched to whole milk from 2%, I eat easily a dozen eggs a week, beef or pork almost every day for lunch and/or dinner—and my numbers are going down. I suspect that my next round of bloodwork will prove this out. (I'm as bad as the evening news with the preliminary findings!) Not only did my numbers go down, but so did my weight.

You can take what you want from this. It's strictly anecdotal. But the more I talk to others that have gone this route, and read studies, etc., the more I'm convinced that we need to go back to eating what we were designed to eat—meat, poultry, vegetables, nuts, fruits.


Norma said...

Yes, yes, yes, yes, and YES.

Oh, and YES.

My numbers never got *quite* as high as yours -- "only" 270 total cholesterol, but the ratio was horrid, and the triglycerides were high. This was when I was a youthful and thin 27, and worked out at least 5 days a week, eating religiously by the Food Pyramid and low-fat and small portions. And my blood pressure was inching up and up and up, and the docs wanted me to go on statins and blood pressure meds.

The food pyramid. Shall we get going on that, then? A piece of crap done by committee. COMMITTEE. With lobbyists with special interests. Compromise, compromise, compromise. Compromising with our HEALTH.

My story? Similar to yours, although I never had large amounts of weight to lose and I'm not diabetic. But I was sick. Stopped eating grains and white potatoes. Didn't even stop eating sugar completely. I believe the grains are the worst culprit.

Completely turned all the numbers around in 3 months. I had put on probably 20 pounds of water weight gain, and it was all gone in those three months, never to return. This was six or seven years ago now.

What do I eat? Like you: grass-fed red meat, eggs, vegetables, fruits, wild fish, poultry. I do indulge in some sugar (jams and maple syrup and chocolate), and though I was dairy-free for a long time, I have now reintroduced whole-fat dairy foods into my diet and seem to be doing very well with them. (They do affect my sinuses, and I have to be alert to a sinus issue, and then back off, or use herbals such as myrrh to keep my sinuses happy). But I will not eat low-fat. Again, that's from what I learned at the medical school and in the sports nutrition courses. The fat is necessary for our bodies. It is also necessary in those foods where it is naturally occurring, it's there for a reason -- to deliver some nutrient or other.

Baddabing, baddaboom.

Sara said...

My numbers took a similar nosedive when I switched to a largely sugar and processed grain-free diet.

I have let the sugar and white carbs creep back in and need to do the awful withdrawal phase again - but it totally works. And I felt SO good and healthy while eating mostly nuts, meat, vegetables, small amounts of whole-grains.

Kristen said...

Wow--you have a cholesterol spreadsheet. You are something! Way to drop those numbers, BTW!

So, is your doctor pushing you to be below 180 too? Supposedly that it the target for diabetics. I'm at 189 and everything else is very good. The only source of cholesterol in my diet is dairy. I rarely eat eggs and I'm a vegetarian, so that cuts out everything else. So, I'm eating my oatmeal (it has worked for me--I was at 200 a few months ago) and watching my dairy intake. He did put me on a verylow dose statin "to try," but had to add that to the list of other drugs I'm allergic to. So, we're doing diet alone and I think I'm doing just fine.

Also, have you seen the recent studies that show pushing type IIs to be under 6 has greatly increased their risk of heart attack? Not that I'm saying you should do anything differently, just that it is an interesting development that shows you this whole thing is much more complex than a set of numbers.

One other thing--you mentioned not having a great doctor. I hope you've found someone else, but until then I hope your current doc is testing your kidney and liver function regularly. (Mine does.) Very low carb diets can mess with kidneys and livers in some people, so it's a good idea to keep track. So, if your doc isn't testing when you go in for your A1C, please ask.

Norma said...

Another issue: cholesterol in the diet. Is it relevant or not to cholesterol in the blood?

I was a vegan for six years; therefore, I was getting zero cholesterol in my diet. My cholesterol went up 100 points in that time; my LDL went out of sight.

I started eating red meat again (believe me, it was hard. It was not only a huge diet change but a huge ideology shift) and my cholesterol dropped 100 again in very short order, with the ratio of HDL to LDL improving dramatically.

I'm just not sure what the numbers mean. I do know I was not at all well as a vegan.

The Old Man & His Dog said...

This is exactly what I'm hoping to prove to my Dr.(Dr. Statin)

Karen said...

I've heard that our bodies make cholesterol....must be something we need. It only makes sense that whole foods are the real way to give our bodies what they need, and while some people may not do well with grains, there is a lot of evidence that WHOLE grains are a very good thing for a good number of people. Unfortunately, most of what is sold as whole grain this or that is not whole at all. Whole means whole. Whole grain rice, wheat, oats. Not just a little bit of it mixed with processed, stripped down white flour, hydrogenated oils and sugars. So...yes, we have been sold a bill of goods in a lot of ways, (on so many subjects, but don't get me started). One book that I have found very interesting is Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, which includes a great deal of information on what has happened to indigenous cultures when their traditional diet was taken away through the influx of outsiders. The researcher in this case was a dentist, and the effects on the dental health (and health in general) of the populations was eye-opening. For those dealing with diabetes or hypoglygemia, of course the carbs even in whole grains must be considered carefully, but for most of us, if we would just not eat anything that comes out of a box, as TMK is quick to point out, we would find great changes taking place. Thanks for opening up discussion and for not buying into the information the medical/food processing industries try to spoon feed us all TMK!

Rhonda from Baddeck said...

Hi TMK - I originally came here from Ryan's blog. I tried your quiche recipe tonight -- absolutely a.w.e.s.o.m.e! (also thanks, Norma) We have lots of asparagus to use up, so that went in along with onions. This is a keeper. Thanks for the blog - it's inching me toward doing what I know is right, but haven't committed to yet. Congratulations on your stunning (and hard-earned) results.