“I can’t eat meat, my cholesterol goes up!”
“I’m on statins to lower my cholesterol levels. I’m supposed to avoid eating fats.”
“Eating fat increases your risk of heart disease.”
First off, here’s a short background on cholesterol:
What is cholesterol?
First, let’s discuss lipoproteins.
A lipoprotein is basically a regular cell membrane mixed with different types of proteins (apolipoproteins). Lipoproteins transport different fat-soluble substances (including fat-soluble vitamins, cholesterol, and triglycerides) in the bloodstream. Cholesterol is a fatty substance carried around in a lipoprotein.
There are two types of cholesterol-carrying lipoproteins. Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) are generally known as the bad cholesterol. It’s said that if you have high levels of LDL cholesterol, they can build up in your arteries and cause heart disease. Statins are used to lower your LDL levels. Then there are high-density lipoproteins (HDL) which are generally known as the good cholesterol. What is supposedly healthy are low levels of LDL and high levels of HDL.
Before quite recently, all cholesterol was thought to be bad. Here are Times Magazine covers suggesting people avoid cholesterol high foods. Fortunately, Time recently came out admitting that cholesterol wasn’t all bad, after who knows how many people suffered by cutting out the few healthy foods they were actually eating (fatty meat anyone?).
What does the actual research show?
There’s growing evidence that cholesterol is protective.
High levels of HDL cholesterol is associated with longevity.
High levels of overall cholesterol and LDL cholesterol is associated with better memory in the elderly.
Low LDL levels INCREASE your mortality risk (1,2,3).
High HDL decreases your mortality risk.
Higher levels of overall cholesterol REDUCE mortality risks.
Things about this whole cholesterol issue and the mainstream medical system that irritate me:
Here’s what the Mayo Clinic has to say about cholesterol and heart disease. This is a source that is supposed to be trustworthy. This is still what the medical community (generally) has to tell us about cholesterol. This is a website I used to rely on when I was trying to figure out what was wrong with me! That entire article is filled with information that is outdated, dangerous, and wrong. It says right on it that “eating saturated fat, found in animal products, and trans fats, found in some commercially baked cookies and crackers, can raise your cholesterol level (true). Foods that are high in cholesterol, such as red meat and full-fat dairy products, will also increase your total cholesterol (true). And that leads to heart disease. WRONG.
Then they tell you other factors that ACTUALLY lead to heart disease:
What actually leads to heart disease?
- Large waist circumference
Then they tell you how to supposedly get rid of said risk factors:
- Eat a low-salt diet that includes many fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- Limit the amount of animal fats and use good fats in moderation
- Lose extra pounds and maintain a healthy weight
HA. How are you supposed to lose weight by following their guidelines, eating fruits, veggies, even worse – grains- and avoiding meat? And what does salt have to do with it! Throwing salt under the bus and it’s 2018! Eating that way is literally the opposite of how you can lose weight! No wonder everyone is overweight, miserable, and dying of heart disease! Or we can listen to what the Mayo clinic suggests and blame the fact people are sick on them and their lack of exercise…
All those actual risk factors can be improved (if not eliminated) by eating differently, or by just going zero-carb (all meat).
I’m going to get my cholesterol tested in a couple of months, I’ll update this post then. Unfortunately, I don’t have a pre-carnivore look at my cholesterol levels to compare to.
Mercola writes a good article about cholesterol if you want to read more.
More information (given to me by a blog reader – thank you!) if you’re still curious:
Articles with citing from scientific journals:
- The Diet-Heart Myth: Cholesterol and Saturated Fat Are Not the Enemy
- Debunking the New Cholesterol Guidelines
- 50 Years Ago, Sugar Industry Quietly Paid Scientists To Point Blame At Fat
- Cholesterol is Good For You by Georgia Ede
- Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease
- Populations that have high cholesterol experience less CVD, are more resistant to liver diseases, and live longer than those with low cholesterol
- High levels of HDL cholesterol is associated with longevity.
- High levels of overall cholesterol and LDL cholesterol is associated with better memory in the elderly.
- Low LDL levels INCREASE mortality risk (article1, article2, article3).
- High HDL decreases your mortality risk.
- Higher levels of overall cholesterol REDUCE mortality risks.
- Cardiovascular disease in the masai
- High carbohydrate intake is associated with a higher risk of mortality, and high fat intake with a lower risk
- The Great Cholesterol Myth: Why Lowering Your Cholesterol Won’t Prevent Heart Disease
- The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet
- Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health, specifically this part
- Cholesterol Clarity: What The HDL Is Wrong With My Numbers?
- Are Saturated Fats Safe and How Much to Have (with citing from scientific journals)
- David Diamond- Demonization and Deception in Cholesterol Research
- Does Cholesterol increase after eating fat? Cholesterol as a dynamic variable snapshot
NY Times Articles:
- How the Sugar Industry Shifted Blame to Fat
- New Study Favors Fat Over Carbs
- Sugar Industry Long Downplayed Potential Harms and Blamed Cholesterol
There is NO strong evidence that cholesterol is bad. In fact, there’s much more evidence that it’s good for you, and that low levels are dangerous. If anything, low cholesterol is what you should be worried about. From my experience, most tests you can get at a doctor’s office (but not all) will just give you information that people (including your doctor) don’t understand, make you worried, give you a diagnosis, when you could eat zero-carb, solve your health problems, and not go through any of that worry.
An association is not a cause. The first rule of quoting research is to understand research. The problem with all dietary research is that it is usually cross sectional and therefore an association. The causal pathway is not established. For example, does low cholesterol become low because of a pre-existing illness like cancer, instead of the low cholesterol ‘causing’ cancer. That’s easy to establish by following people and monitoring their cholesterol. A very low cholesterol in an elderly person might indicate they have something going on, its not established that it is a cause. The J curve of cholesterol is established. Both very low and very high cholesterol are Associated with illness in one form or another. There is no evidence fruit and vegetables which are natural forage foods are detrimental to health. Consuming them means consuming all the vitamins and minerals and fibres and antioxidants. For example citrus has around 4000 bioactive compounds, none of which work without symbiosis. Therefore taking isolated ‘supplements’ can never replace natural food.
What about triglycerids? Is it bad to have them high or is it ok like cholesterol? I have had high cholesterol and triglycerids and wasnt feeling very well, the doctor told me it was my cholesterol but i have heard that its not that bad to have it high, so i think the problem might have been the triglycerids
Mercola is a quack for sure.
Here he is claiming that led light bulbs are bad because they don’t put out infrared radiation. https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2016/10/23/near-infrared-led-lighting.aspx
Anyone with even a basic understanding knows infrared is just a fancy term for radiant heat, which all objects warmer than room temperature give off. The contribution to infrared a light puts out is minimal, there are so many other sources of it.
So I wouldn’t trust this guy on anything.
Just because conventional medicine isn’t great, doesn’t me we should blindly trust alternative practitioners; they can be just as bad if not worse and spread lies.
I am not sure Mercola is a quack. Why? because life evolved with light that has always contained IR light, either the sun or fire. how long has life lived with light with no IR? well the initial light bulb was invented in 1879? and how long has life been around? even when I was growing up as a kid, and I am now 24, I had incandescent light bulbs which emit small amounts of IR. I hope you are right though. And that light does not matter. But so far my experience indicates the opposite :/
Seriously? Please don’t talk about Mercola and evidence in the same breath. Antivaxx, pseudomedicine and ‘big pharma’ conspiracist. Oh and homeopathy. I think this is a great article and has good sources, though the links definitely seem to conform to the widely held view that high HDL and lower LDL is the healthiest option.
The links that you posted relating to LDL and increased mortality all had problems.
1. This was a study on patients who had already suffered an acute MI. There are many different variables in these patients, especially relating to medications and statins given in hospital.
2. Total cholesterol levels, not LDL.
3. Total cholesterol levels, not LDL. Aaand the results showed the increase in mortality was non-cardiac. “The most frequent cause of non-cardiac death associated with low total cholesterol was cancer.” so this doesn’t go against the conventional wisdom relating to coronary health. Even if it was just about LDL. Which it isn’t.
Again, I definitely agree that we need to revisit this in the healthcare industry! Just… pseudomedicine and real studies should be widely separated and Mercola quacks like a duck.
I’ve been doing a zero-carb all meat diet. All of the articles I find online are telling me its an awful idea and it makes me nervous. I really appreciate a resource that tells me otherwise.
Would you limit your daily egg intake? Esp if fresh from the farm?
Almost every animal cell makes cholesterol. That is the whole animal kingdom, from the beginnig of life 3,5 billion years ago. All of them. Anyone who wants to tell me cholesterol is bad is a fucking moron.
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