My Experiments with Diet & Cholesterol
Thursday, May 08, 2014
In my mid-20s, I slowly ballooned up to 210 pounds. I changed my diet to a high fat, high protein, low sugar/carbohydrate diet and lost 50 pounds. I ate a lot but didn't change my exercise routine (new research supports the theory that low carb diets affect metabolism and burn more calories at rest). In addition to losing weight, I felt better, and in particular, satisfied after meals, but my LDL (bad) cholesterol shot way up from 126 pre-diet to 317 (should be less than 130). My doctor told me that the medical consensus is that dietary cholesterol only affects LDL up to 15%, which meant the only thing I could do is to take a statin drug for the rest of my life. I did a lot of research and found some hints that this isn't true. After a lot more research, I changed my diet by adding a lot of carbohydrates back to my diet and taking a multivitamin, and got another test after 4 months. My LDL went back down to 134. My doctor was shocked, and so was I after just the first attempt! (Some scientists believe that high cholesterol is not necessarily bad and that the problem is inflammation/damage and only then does the LDL get into the arteries, but even if that's true, my research suggests it's good if it's low anyway and a huge life risk if it's not true.)
Next came the interesting part. I had started with the scattershot approach of adding both carbs and vitamins, and I guessed that it must have been one or the other that caused the change. First, I removed the carbs and left the multivitamins and continued that diet for 5 months and LDL went up to 201. So it didn't seem to be the vitamins, so it must've been the carbs. I removed the vitamins and added the carbs and continued that diet for 8 months but my LDL was still 170. Finally, I went back to the original, good test and added both carbs and multivitamins and LDL went back down to 128! My triglycerides are also better than before I started the diet.
I learned a few things:
- Question everything and never give up.
- Find a doctor that's willing to listen to your crazy theories whilst monitoring you as you do self-experiments.
- Question your doctor and do your own research. Research is difficult (so much is conflicting or shoddy) and takes a lot of time.
- Get blood tests or other diagnostics before making any big changes.
- Changing one variable at a time is not always the right thing. Unfortunately, that means that are (2^N - 1) combinations of N variables, so that means a lot of hypotheses to test.
- Even if you feel great, check your vital signs and blood results.
My current diet is best described in the book Perfect Health Diet by Drs Jaminet. The basic idea is to start with our historical/evolutionary diets and conservatively add in whatever the science supports. This means a diet that is as close to nature as possible:
- No antibiotics
- No grains
- Grass-fed meat
- Carbs that have the most evidence that they are the least toxic to humans (what they call "safe starches")
The book also goes over all of the vitamins and minerals that our bodies need. Most can be found in natural sources and I plan to remove the multivitamin pills I'm taking so that I can get back to a food-only diet.
I also found using a genetics test that I'm lactose intolerant (as is much of the world), so I cut out milk, cheese, and butter (I cook with lard), although this change had no impact on my cholesterol.
Here's my diet:
- 3 Eggs (fried/scrambled)
- 3 Pieces of Bacon (fried)
- 1 Potato (fried)
- Multivitamin Pill
- Vitamin C Pill
- Vitamin K Pill
- Seaweed salad
- Sushi (rice, avocado, seaweed, cucumber)
- 1 Pound of Meat (fatty rib eye, fatty fish like salmon, liver and onions, or chicken)
- Steamed: 2 Potatoes, 1 Yam, 1 Beet, 1 Carrot, 3 Celery Sticks, Kale, Spinach, Another Leafy Green, Bell Pepper, Squash, Asparagus
I only drink water throughout the day (3 huge glasses, one at each meal). Sometimes I'll have a small dessert or cookie after dinner.
This is basically a French cuisine diet. And hey, what'dya know, the French have low heart disease: The French Paradox. The potatoes and yams, while likely most safe, are high on the glycemic index; however, that's probably mitigated by the rest of the diet.
Recently, I've also been convinced in a discussion with a philosophy professor that modern factory farming is immoral. As much as possible, I try to buy meat at Whole Foods that's at step 4 or above on their animal welfare rating, even if it's not the cut that I want. There's also the Certified Humane standard/label.