Cholesterol Results Are In

In the name of science, I'm posting my cholesterol test results online, since many people have expressed curiosity about the results of my experiment.

Last fall, I had my cholesterol levels taken as part of a physical (my first in over 20 years). My cholesterol levels were the only thing my doctor worried about, and he asked me to try to bring them down.

For the next seven months, I didn't do anything drastic to bring them down, the only changes I made to either diet or exercise was to consciously add more vegetables and salads to my diet, since I read that the fiber "scrubs" the cholesterol out of your veins. But this was not scientific or rigorous, I just kept in mind that I should be eating more vegetables than I did before. And the middle column shows that my cholesterol went down quite a bit just from making that minor adjustment.

However, my doctor told me that wasn't enough, that he wanted me to get my cholesterol down below 200. So starting after the blood test on 4/13, I went vegan for 12 full weeks. I describe a little bit of the experience in the Diet section of my blog, but I didn't blog about it much just because I didn't think it was terribly interesting. I missed butter, I missed sour cream, but other than that, it really wasn't a great challenge to eat vegan from a logistical standpoint. But over time, it made me just feel lousy, so I'm not going to continue the vegan diet. But if you look at the third column with the 7/11 test date, you'll see I did indeed get my cholesterol from 246 down to 197 with just changes in my diet. I didn't really change my exercise, except actually stopping during the summer because it's too hot. I was actually coming off several weeks without exercise at the time of the last blood test, so the lower levels were clearly caused by diet.

Test Date 9/21/12 4/13/13 7/11/13
Cholesterol 246 225 197
HDL (good) 48 51 49
Triglyceride 137 138 119
VLDL 27 28 24
LDL (bad> 171 146 124
Non-HDL 198 174 148
LDL/HDL ratio 3.56 2.86 2.53

So as far as I'm concerned, there *is* something to the idea that if you eat foods with cholesterol, you will have high cholesterol. If you eat foods without cholesterol (all vegan foods), you will have lower cholesterol.

One note about my vegan diet-- this was not a low-fat vegan diet, I ate about 30-40% of my calories in fat each day. It was, however, low-protein. I would get roughly 5-10% of my daily calories from plant-based protein, and the rest was carbs.

I did this because I watched the film "Forks Over Knives" and figured I'd give it a try. They said that people don't need as much protein as commonly believed, and that 5-10% of calories should be adequate, so that's what I tested.

But overall, the vegan diet made me feel so constantly fatigued as the weeks went on, that it is not something I will pursue, despite the cholesterol-lowering benefits.

My doctor wants me to get tested again in several months, so this next phase of my experiment in controlling my cholesterol through diet is to follow, "The Plan," a new way of eating authored by Lyn-Genet Recitas. Instead of eliminating all animal products, you test everything from vegetables to nuts to cheese to meats to find out if anything is causing inflammation in your body. Many of her clients lowered their cholesterol by eliminating what she calls "reactive" foods, and eating more foods that their bodies process well. I've already written a little bit about this "Plan" in the Diet section of this blog, and will probably add some more thoughts as I go through more tests and more meal plans.