Monday, March 8, 2010

Proof is in the Numbers

Whenever I mention that I eat lots of meat and eggs, people always ask, "But what about your cholesterol??" Well, if you've been paying attention, you should know that consuming good fats will help joint mobility, brain function, mood, and many other facets of life. While there's a LOT of science behind it, I also think proof is in the numbers. 

I recently got blood work done and here is my cholesterol count.

Total cholesterol: 183
HDL: 61
LDL: 116
Triglycerides: 31
Total cholesterol/HDL: 3

Although there are still some things that the American Heart Association needs to make the public aware of (and themselves for that matter), let's take a look at their guidelines and how I compare for risk of heart disease.

Total cholesterol: low risk = less than 200mg/dl; high risk = more than 240. 183 = LOW RISK.
HDL: low risk = more than 60; high risk = less than 40. 61 = LOW RISK.
LDL*: low risk =  low risk = less than 100; high risk = more than 190. 116 = NEAR LOW RISK.
Triglycerides: low risk = less than 150; high risk = more than 200. 31 = VERY LOW RISK.
Total cholesterol/HDL:low risk = less than 3.5; high risk = over 7. 3 = LOW RISK.

The kicker is that at the end of these guidelines, ADA writes "On the whole, Americans should reduce the amount of saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and total fat in their diet." (ADA: Cholesterol Levels)

I wonder what they would say if I told them my diet consisted of 60% fat, less than 20% carbs, and 0% grains!!!  

*Now, LDL the "bad" cholesterol can actually be broken down into parts: big fluffy LDL and small dense LDL (VLDL). It's the small dense stuff that can contribute to plaque buildup in arteries, but I don't have the breakdown of numbers right now. If I get them, I'll let them know. Also see Evan's post in the comments for more info.

actual breakdown from a day of eating last week using FitDay. Normally I don't weigh/measure or keep track, but I was curious as to what my breakdown would be. 

What should you take away from this? Eating fat does not MAKE you fat. Nor does it mess with your blood lipid profile. What does? Refined carbs and sugar. Things that mess with your insulin and inflammation. For the basics, check this post out.


  1. Hey Chris,
    (remember me!)
    Another nice post.
    Unfortuntly, your numbers don't tell the whole truth. I'll assume that they were done with the standard Freidwald Eq. Next time ask for an NMR or VAP test. Even though your HDL and Trig are lookin good, you still don'y have enough info on the LDL #. The LDL can be made up of several classes of Lipoprotein's. If all of them are small and dense (Type B) then there is still a problem. If all of them are large and fluffy (Type A) then thats even better. The Sat Fat tends to create large and fluffies. Given the fact that I know how you eat and excersize I would say your def. Type A all the way which would make your numbers ....pretty damn good.

  2. hey Ev,

    I agree. I even posted this to Robb's page and mentioned that I didn't have the VLDL number, but I'm getting a paper copy in the mail. I'll assume it was the standard and I won't get those numbers until next time, but like you said, hopefully from the diet and exercise it's the right kind.

  3. Chris,

    Another great post. I'm curious about your thoughts on the role of genetics on LDL and HDL levels and relative risk. I know that even when my eating has changed significantly to get rid of processed foods and I went primarily Primal, my numbers didn't change all that much. Both parents trend toward high cholesterol with a bad LDL/HDL ratio, hence the use of a statin.

    This is all on a background of CrossFit exercise on a regular basis.

  4. P:

    I am always interested in this stuff and granted my diet is still evolving and I eat a LOT less fat than you but here are my stats from May 2009. The latest that I have...

    Chol: 176
    HDL: 51
    LDL: 104
    TRI: 105
    Chol/HDL: 3.45

    The kicker is that in May 2008 before CF, here were my stats:

    Chol: 187 (slightly worse)
    HDL: 44
    LDL: 81 (but VLDL was 61)
    Chol/HDL: 4.25 (Worse)

    So, I am curious to see how I play out this year. My diet was basically Aim's diet with more alcohol and a LOT more grains!

  5. Wanted to add that my VLDL was 21 this year. A huge improvement.

  6. Wow Jas, nice! I'm interested to see what your numbers are now, esp. your triglycerides. I'm willing to bet they shot down again.

    Jeff, I'm not too familiar with hereditary cholesterol, although from what I've read, doctors and big pharm. companies use "hereditary" to refer to learned behaviors like diet and lack of exercise, rather than the genetics portion. It seems like there IS a small population of people who have a genetic factor that influences cholesterol; these people are in the 400s or so for total cholesterol.

    While I don't want to make you come off a drug prescribed to you for a reason, I've also read a lot of things basically saying statins are a way for companies to make money; not much more. In fact, some studies have shown ADVERSE effects, esp. to mitochondria (important stuff to have!) I think companies use cholesterol (total and LDL) as scapegoats when really they need to be looking more specifically at Type B or VLDL; have you had your VLDL tested like Evan refers to?

  7. Chris, here's the comment I tried to get up last night. I'm just beginning to dip my toes into the "paleo"/"primal"/chris P. "eat like a MAN" world. And I'm just starting to get my head around it, when all of a sudden on CNBC I see a report about genetic targeting of appropriate diets for individual people. The genetic test they reference is here, and the study they reported on is here.

    Granted, their endpoints are limited and they focused on only women... but it does imply that the appropriate diet for an individual may be genetically targeted... and may not be a one-size-fits-all approach. While this won't make me go pull all of the taco shells out of the trash can (that I threw out after reading your Taco Night post!) I am curious about your reaction.

  8. Mike, I'm wary of a few things: it was done only on women; the focus was only on weight loss, not health (of which, weight loss can be a factor but it is not the only); it is a product that is trying to be sold to the public; that I can't even find this "study" although I did find an article by Reuters on this so I will dig a little deeper; b/c I didn't find the study, I couldn't find what kind of carbs these women were eating.

    So, basically I need more info to make any conclusions, but I did pass it on to the big guns: Robb Wolf and Mark Sisson to take a look at. Chances are they are too busy to look at it, but it never hurts! Overall, I find it very hard to believe that people were made to live on high carb diets; if this is true what did people do before agriculture? Eat 5 pounds of greens a day??


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