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Total Cholesterol Roller Coaster from "Paleo" to "Primal" to "Perfect Health"? (*8 Month Update)

by (19355) Updated October 23, 2013 at 3:41 PM Created July 29, 2011 at 7:15 PM

(I know that total cholesterol is an inadequate measure of health and that the exact relationship between cholesterol and health is still uncertain (AND that this topic has been brought up in numerous other threads, so if this question gets closed I understand), but it is representative of something going on in the body and thus I have a desire to know if anyone else has had a similar experience.)

Last December, during the final month of my HSAD ("Healthy" Standard American Diet) my total cholesterol was 188. Over the course of my adult life, my numbers have been consistently within the 160-190 range, so this was par for the course.

After 7 weeks of Paleo (following the recommendations found in Cordain and Wolf's books, low sat. fat, moderate protein, no dairy, etc.) my total cholesterol dropped to 180.

After finishing my 90-day Paleo challenge (see the whole thing here) I decided to switch to a more Sisson-esque "Primal" diet that included cheese, cream, and fattier cuts of meats such as beef, pork, etc. and a drastically reduced carbohydrate intake.

After a month of "Primal", my total cholesterol was found to be 285 (this was a fasted reading) and the overweight phlebotomist told me that I might need statins. Admittedly, I did have a momentary freak-out, but I was reading "Good Calories Bad Calories" at the time and decided to "stay the course".

Just this past week, I gave blood and received my numbers again. Since the last reading, my diet has since gone even lower carb and higher in fat, but my total cholesterol has dropped to 248.

I'm definitely relieved to see this as the consensus seems to be that cholesterol levels, while not an issue of grave concern, shouldn't skyrocket indefinitely.

There are plenty of threads discussing what seem to be abnormally high TC readings with some individuals after switching to Paleo/Primal, but I want to know if anyone has, like me, seen their numbers "normalize" after a period of time.

*8 Month Update*

Since originally posting this question, I have steadily increased my carbohydrate intake (daily fruit plus some sort of starch from sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, plantains, beans, and white rice) swapped out some animal fat (no more heavy cream, limiting eggs to 6 per week, less butter) for more plant oils (coconut, extra virgin olive oil, nuts/seeds) and cut down on my pork intake (yup, that means bacon) though I still eat red meat like beef and venison regularly.

Exercise has mostly stayed the same although I have begun to incorporate the vilified "moderate intensity cardio" back into my routine in the form of weekly mountain bike riding and spinning.

Even so, I was still a little worried going in to our I had a health screening at work today, and the results were as follows...

Total Cholesterol 190 mg/dl (optimal, as indicted on the testing paperwork, = less than 200)

HDL 74 mg/dl (optimal = higher than 50)

TC/HDL Ratio 2.6 (optimal = less than 4.0)

LDL did not register as it was too low (optimal = less than 100mg/dl)

Triglycerides did not register as they were less than 45mg/dl (optimal = less than 150)

Fasting blood glucose 88mg/dl (optimal = less than 100)

Blood Pressure 121/70 (optimal = less than 120/80)

Body fat 13.1% ("healthy" = 8% to 19%)

6 ft tall and 192lbs = BMI 26 (optimal = 18.5 to 24.9)

The RN looked at my results and basically said that she couldn't recommend that I do anything other than "keep doing what I am doing". We eventually decided that I could technically "drink more water" just so that she could write something on her sheet.

(On a funny side note, in our discussion she assumed that I was eating "low fat dairy". I mentioned that I don't eat much, but if I do it is cultured sour cream, so I still get my "probiotics". That seemed to make her happy.)

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39204 · July 29, 2011 at 7:47 PM

Your rise in LDL-C and TC are mostly the result of consumption of cream/butter, and to a lesser extent, cheese. Dairy fat tends to have a ratio of myristic/palmitic/lauric acids that will spike LDL-C like nothing else. If you continue to eat high fat, but cut out dairy, your LDL-C will plummet. Mine dropped by 20-something% in 5 weeks, though I would imagine that there is variability between individuals.

As to whether high LDL really matters, I can't say, but my gut feeling is that it is not optimal, and dairy fat consumption is as recent as wheat consumption. Personally, I feel that the dairy industry raises cholesterol and the statin industry lowers it. This oscillating paradigm is great for business, but not so much for us.

If you'd like to play it safe, skip dairy and supplement calcium via some other means.

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1896 · July 29, 2011 at 8:35 PM

I just got back from the Dr. today, and I think my cholesterol numbers are very interesting.

In 2009 at 216 lbs and on a very unhealthy diet of frootloops, pb&j, and healthy choice boxes, here is what my numbers were.

TC 212 TriG 84 HDL 52 LDL-C 143

My BP was 126/88

Today.. I am 177 lbs, and Paleo/Lacto (for now, might ditch dariy to see what happens)

BP was 111/70

TC 260 TriG 48 HDL 64 LDL-C 186

My Dr. told me to eat less red meat, more fish and chicken.. and that because of my high HDL and low TriG he didn't recommend statins.. so I will keep him, AND keep eating my red meat. I'll be interested to see how dairy will effect my LDL in 6 months.

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14 · October 23, 2013 at 3:40 PM

Hey guys,

yes the numbers will normalize eventually. There are a lot of people who have no idea how to interpret results. for those I first recommend that they read this popular guide on how to understand test results.

http://loweringcholesterolguide.com/understanding-test-results/

Then you can start working on lowering your cholesterol!

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18437 · July 29, 2011 at 8:07 PM

...but I want to know if anyone has, like me, seen their numbers "normalize" after a period of time. realized I answered without taking this into account and just generalized my thoughts on cholesterol.

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