Vegetarian
Moderators: brighteyes82


My cholesterol dropped 50 points in 2.5 weeks


Quote  |  Reply

So my whole foods, plant-based diet really didn't start until my wife, son, and I got to the US 2.5 weeks ago for our 7 week long business then pleasure trip.  I had been researching things for months before we started, but actually doing it before this trip wasn't practical considering how big of a change it is / was.

Anyhow, back in April I got my cholesterol checked as a part of a physical for a life insurance policy.  I didn't bring the result sheet with me so I don't recall all the details, but I do recall the one very startling number: my total cholesterol was 200mg/dL.  YIKES! That number and the fact that all my clothes were getting tight was my motivation to study up on nutrition.

Flash forward to yesterday.  I went to go donate blood at a blood drive.  Just as I was finishing up my wife mentioned that the next day I could call the number on the little card they gave me and they would tell me what my cholesterol was.  I could hardly wait to see what the 2.5 weeks had done for me.  I called up early the next morning and gave her my social security number and she said "your cholesterol is 150."

150!  I was absolutely floored.  First of all, like I said, I wasn't eating this whole foods vegan diet before I came here 2.5 weeks ago.  And there is no possible way my cholesterol was any lower than it was in April before I left for this trip.  Also, I didn't know about the possibility of getting this test beforehand so, unlike in April, I didn't have a chance to fast.  So I dropped a solid 50 points of total cholesterol in 18 days.

From The China Study: "We compared the prevalence of Western diseases in each country with diet and lifestyle variables and, to our surprise, we found that one of the strongest predictors of Western diseases was blood cholesterol." 

Yay me!

48 Replies (last)
Wow, that's awesome.

At the moment I can't remember what my numbers are, they are still under the danger line, but have been creeping up over the past few years, so my doctor wants me to keep an eye on them. Which is frustrating because I do everything right, exercise, diet, yaddah yaddah.

I've always had high good cholesterol - which pushes up the total. But apparently the bad cholesterol is now going up, which effects the ratio. Despite diet and exercise. Sigh. It's a genetic thing, I guess. My dad was the exact same way, and by 60 he was put on meds.
Yay you is right :) Rockon! Congratulations on the fantastic blood work, seriously nothing is better than being in control of yourself and your own health. Keep it up!

Have you been eating exclusively vegetarian since you came to the US? What was different you think that made such a difference? I would love to see similar results myself (my starting cholesterol is low but my "good" cholesterol is also very low, which isn't a good thing).

Would you mind if I ask were both tests done after fasting for 12 hours? I am a believer in a healthful diet having effects on your blood work for sure, but cholesterol tests are known for being very influenced by what you ate as well as whether you had an ongoing infection etc. Just curious as to the "conditions" of the two tests.

In any case, congrats again!!
WOW, congrats! Very encouraging for me personally. :)
Original Post by nycgirl:

Yay you is right :) Rockon! Congratulations on the fantastic blood work, seriously nothing is better than being in control of yourself and your own health. Keep it up!

Have you been eating exclusively vegetarian since you came to the US? What was different you think that made such a difference? I would love to see similar results myself (my starting cholesterol is low but my "good" cholesterol is also very low, which isn't a good thing).

Would you mind if I ask were both tests done after fasting for 12 hours? I am a believer in a healthful diet having effects on your blood work for sure, but cholesterol tests are known for being very influenced by what you ate as well as whether you had an ongoing infection etc. Just curious as to the "conditions" of the two tests.

In any case, congrats again!!

 Thanks a bunch!  I've been eating a whole foods, plant-based diet exclusively since we came here.  No refined grains, no free sugars, no dairy, no meat, and very limited oils.  Just tons of veggies, most of which are leafy greens, tons of fruit, lots of beans, some whole wheat pastas and breads, some nuts, and seeds.  So it's been an exclusively vegan diet since we got here (okay, there was the 2 cookies I had after I gave blood Laughing), but a healthful one.

The first test was done after a 12+ hour fasting period.  I didn't know they would check my cholesterol for me until after I got my blood drawn this time, so I didn't fast.  I had a very large smoothie and peanut butter toast that morning and a massive salad that afternoon.  So if anything the 150 figure is higher than it would otherwise be.  So that's exciting too.  I didn't have an infection that I was aware of for either test.

Thanks again! 

Hmm... you've only been on the diet 2.5 weeks? I did some research for you, and I turned up this:

http://health.msn.com/centers/cholesterol/art iclepage.aspx?cp-documentid=100142174

Apparently the cholesterol test is not like an insulin test, where what you eat the night before shows up the next day in your blood.

Not to put a damper on your results!!

Mikelane, Congratulations on your fantastic results!

Years ago, when I switched over from lacto-vegetarian to vegan, I experienced something very similar.  My cholesterol plummeted from 200 down to somewhere between 135 and 145.  It stayed in that range for years, and most recently went down to 133.  There are a lot of problems in my family with cholesterol and heart disease, and I'm the only one that has such low cholesterol.

Jenmcc, I don't know if you eat dairy products or not, but for me I'm convinced that cheese was the key culprit that was keeping my cholesterol high before I went vegan.  As a lacto-vegetarian, I was eating a lot of cheese.  These days, I have come to find out that cheese is more highly concentrated in saturated fat than any other food, and is one of the most disease-promoting, artery clogging foods a person could eat.

As far as my HDL goes, it is pretty phenomenal.  I've got a 'reverse ratio', which means that my HDL is actually higher than my LDL.  This is a phenomenon that is common in athletes, and at first I thought that the improvement in this area was due to aerobic exercise.  However, even when I really wasn't getting any aerobic exercise, I still retained the high HDL, and the reverse ratio.  Perhaps its those heart-healthy walnuts I eat all the time, or maybe the small portion of pomegranate juice that goes in my smoothie?  Heck, I just don't know, but I am a total vegan health nut, and I must be doing something right!

Well, having said all this about the HDL, I should probably add that as long as your total cholesterol is under 150, and your LDL is under 100, having a high HDL loses its importance.  That is, if you haven't got a problem with too much 'bad' choleterol, its not necessary to have a lot of 'good' cholesterol to compensate for it.

Original Post by jenmcc:

Hmm... you've only been on the diet 2.5 weeks? I did some research for you, and I turned up this:

http://health.msn.com/centers/cholesterol/art iclepage.aspx?cp-documentid=100142174

Apparently the cholesterol test is not like an insulin test, where what you eat the night before shows up the next day in your blood.

Not to put a damper on your results!!

Thanks for that research. I don't believe I would suffer from the same measurement errors that were referred to in that article. The person in question had a much more dramatic drop in their cholesterol (120 points) and used a home testing kit for at least the second test (they didn't specify on the 1st test). My cholesterol was checked by a blood draw and lab tests by qualified doctors back in April and was screened as a part of my recent blood donation. The 2nd one could cause some errors, I don't really know. I would assume not because I would think they would need to know the details of the donated blood.

The proof will be in my cholesterol test next April though :D

(edited for clarity)

Another hearty congrats here!

Your experience evidently isn't uncommon (see McDougall).

While I didn't have my cholesterol measured until about four months after switching from SAD to a plant-based whole food diet my cholesteral drop (from 220 to 127) was equally shocking to me.

Congrats again!


Okay, I'm no expert... it's something I'm trying to figure out myself. Maybe you guys can help me interpret this. Here is the letter I got from my doctor:

"Your cholesterol results in July 07 are as follows: Total cholesterol 183. HDL: 48. My records indicate that your total cholesterol has increased compared to the last value of 155 in October 2003. Given your medical history, we would like to keep your LDL below 160."

Well, it IS below 160... and my doctor always tells me my HDL is great. So I don't know what to make of this. Except, as I mentioned, my dad had a long history of high HDL and then bam! At age 60 he had to be put on cholesterol meds.

Cbullock, I used to be vegetarian, in my 20s. Then I did start eating meat again, but infrequently and only in very small portions. For the last 10 years, I have eaten vegetarian about 70% of the time.  Lots of veggies (I eat 9 servings a day), beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, and tofu. The other 30% of the time would include fish (every time I eat out, I'd order fish), and the occasional red meat but very small portions. I don't really care for chicken or pork.

It is true I am eating a lot more fish and chicken in the last year (since this diet - and discovering I need to control my carbs, even if they are whole grain - I am prediabetic), but red meat is still only a once a month event. I've never cut out dairy, but since I'm lactose-intolerant, I never drink milk, only eat small quantities of cheese, and well... I do admit I like ice cream!

It's true that I've increased the amount of dairy in my diet since January - I started having nonfat plain yogurt every morning, to help me with stomach problems. So at most I will have two servings of dairy a day: yogurt in the morning, and about one ounce of feta or similar cheese with my salad at lunch.

My dad's opinion is that it's not my diet, it's just my genetics. That if my diet was different - more the traditional American diet - then my cholesterol numbers would be much higher??

I dunno...

EDIT: Also as far as saturated fat goes, I use fitday to track and I have it set up to report on ranges... I have it set up for a max of 18 g of saturated fat, and max 53 g of total fat. But I have been averaging  under those max allowances: 13 g of saturated fat and 44 g of total fat (meaning 33 grams of poly or monsaturated fats).

(I don't follow a low-fat diet... I did that years ago - the whole low-fat/high-carb thing, and I wound up prediabetic. So I follow more like 20% protein, 30% fat, 50% carbs (mostly veggies and just two servings of starches a day).

jenmcc,

I'm pretty sure that the '160' must be a typo.  In other words, I think he meant to say that he would like the LDL to be under 100, as that would be the likely recommendation.  If I recall correctly, in the Framingham Heart Study, there wasn't a single person with a total cholesterol under 150, and an LDL under 100 who experienced a heart attack.  As a result, at this level, many doctors consider an individual to be 'heart attack proof'.

Well, when you add up a little meat here, some fish there, and a little dairy there, to me it sounds like it adds up to something significant.  Might not sound that way to others, but being the vegan health nut that I am, to me it really sounds like a whole lot of cholesterol!

If you really want to test out what you can do with diet, I honestly think you should try eliminating all these things (including the dairy that you ate back when you were a vegetarian), just as an experiment to see what happens.  To really do this right, I would recommend getting a hold of a book called 'Cholesterol Protection For Life', by Dr. Joel Fuhrman.  Here is a link to some info about his cholesterol lowering diet, and about the book:

Lowering Your Cholesterol

I understand Fuhrman is a quack. I wouldn't take my advice from him. Sorry!

I just ran the reports on fitday for my cholesterol. I've been averaging around 160 mg. You got me curious, so I did a quick google and it seems the recommendation is to keep it under 300 mg.

While googling, I also found this:

http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga20 05/document/html/chapter6.htm

Which if you scroll down says that under 160 LDL is the guideline if you have zero to one risk factor. My only risk factor is prediabetes. My blood pressure is very low, my HDL is high, no family history of heart disease, I'm only 42, and I recently had a full cardio work-up and everything checked out great. So that was probably not a misprint.

And I also found this:

http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/f ats.html

"But the average person makes about 75% of blood cholesterol in his or her liver, while only about 25% is absorbed from food."

and..

"For some people with high cholesterol, reducing the amount of cholesterol in the diet has a small but helpful impact on blood cholesterol levels. For others, the amount of cholesterol eaten has little impact on the amount of cholesterol circulating in the blood."

I suspect - in my case - reducing the dietary cholesterol isn't going to make much of a dent... it's already low. My LDL is likely increasing due to other, genetic factors... that affect the other 75% that's produced in the liver.
#12  
Quote  |  Reply
Original Post by mikelane:

So my whole foods, plant-based diet really didn't start until my wife, son, and I got to the US 2.5 weeks ago for our 7 week long business then pleasure trip.  I had been researching things for months before we started, but actually doing it before this trip wasn't practical considering how big of a change it is / was.

Anyhow, back in April I got my cholesterol checked as a part of a physical for a life insurance policy.  I didn't bring the result sheet with me so I don't recall all the details, but I do recall the one very startling number: my total cholesterol was 200mg/dL.  YIKES! That number and the fact that all my clothes were getting tight was my motivation to study up on nutrition.

Flash forward to yesterday.  I went to go donate blood at a blood drive.  Just as I was finishing up my wife mentioned that the next day I could call the number on the little card they gave me and they would tell me what my cholesterol was.  I could hardly wait to see what the 2.5 weeks had done for me.  I called up early the next morning and gave her my social security number and she said "your cholesterol is 150."

150!  I was absolutely floored.  First of all, like I said, I wasn't eating this whole foods vegan diet before I came here 2.5 weeks ago.  And there is no possible way my cholesterol was any lower than it was in April before I left for this trip.  Also, I didn't know about the possibility of getting this test beforehand so, unlike in April, I didn't have a chance to fast.  So I dropped a solid 50 points of total cholesterol in 18 days.

From The China Study: "We compared the prevalence of Western diseases in each country with diet and lifestyle variables and, to our surprise, we found that one of the strongest predictors of Western diseases was blood cholesterol." 

Yay me!

First off, congratulations.

However, the accuracy of this latest test is questionable.

Also, my cholesterol was just recorded at 126 (down from 150 since I was 15 years old,when I was obese and eating an atrocious diet of fast-food and sugary cakes), despite eating an omnivorous diet. What does that prove? Nothing.

What does your experiment prove? Nothing. 

It's been shown that dietary cholesterol intake has relatively little to do with blood cholesterol readings.

The most important thing is that you eat a diet consisting of healthy foods and exercise. Otherwise, Cholesterol is mostly a hereditary issue.

 

Jenmcc, I don't know where you would get the idea that Dr. Fuhrman is a quack.  Did you see the reference for the study published in 'Metabolism' (a peer-reviewed journal), where his 'Eat to Live' diet was shown to result in a 33% reduction in blood cholesterol over a two week period?  I consider him absolutely brilliant, and have learned a great deal from him.  I follow his dietary advice, and it has been transformational for me.  I could give you a long, drawn out personal testimony about what a huge difference this has made in my life, but I'll spare you the details unless you really want me to get into it (in which case I'll hardly even know where to begin!).

In any case, I want to make a couple of points.  First off, I noticed you didn't mention anything about the level of saturated fat in your diet, which is an important factor linked to blood cholesterol.  Irregardless of that, the main point I was trying to make is that you really can't be sure what effect a change in diet might have in your case, unless you give it a try.  Others, such as mikelane and myself have experienced dramatic results.  You can assume that any problem you might have is purely genetic and not possible to change, but I'm just saying that you can't really be sure of this unless you take the plunge and try some serious experimentation.  There are a lot of people out there who have done this and have been shocked by the results.  You can always find research that claims to show that dietary changes make little difference, however, upon close examination of the research, you might also find that the dietary changes being made were not as significant or extreme as what mikelane and I have done.  It is kind of hard for researchers to find a large, compliant group of vegans to study!  Another problem is that there isn't a lot of funding available for those sort of studies.  But, I digress.  Thats a whole nuther story.....

   

    

Funny, I knew that dm84 would show up sooner or later to try to steal your thunder mikelane.  :)  Heaven forbid that any of us be proud of our healthy lifestyles, instead we should just chalk it up as genetics.  :/ 

I offer you my sincere congratulations on your success, mikelane, both with the test results and with your healthy lifestyle!  Being vegan is not easy, and most certainly not something to be dismissed out of hand.  Great job so far, definitely keep us posted!  I am very excited to hear about your results when you go back in April.  :)

First of all, mikelane - I apologize if I'm also coming across as raining on your parade - that was definetly NOT my intent!!! I think it's spectacular what you've done with your cholesterol numbers through diet.

Certainly diet plays a role. But genetics do too. You can't control genetics, but you can control diet, and Mikelane is a perfect example of that. It's an extraordinary difference.

OTOH, I do believe my diet is under control (as is my weight and my exercise). If it wasn't, perhaps my totals would be well over 200.

Cbullock - I did mention my saturated fats: I average no more than 13 mg per day. That is well under the 18 mg recommended for someone of my caloric requirements. This is based on about 7 months worth of nutritional tracking. So cholesterol averages around 160 mg, saturated fat around 13 mg... weight is at 21 BMI.. I run 10-12 miles a week.... you tell me why my cholesterol is still creeping up.

As for Fuhrman, I may have him confused with someone else. I thought he was on quackwatch?
Hi Mikelane ~ Congrats on your reduced #'s!  Woo hoo :) 

Jenmcc,

Clearly genetics do give us certain pre-dispositions and challenges, however, I would hate to see anyone feel 'doomed' by their genetics, if there might possibly be a way to overcome the genetic tendencies.  You may be right that your diet is under control, and that your cholesterol would be much higher if it wasn't.  As far as telling you why your cholesterol would be creeping up, I still have a couple of theories on that.  Assuming that your diet really is under control, it is actually quite common for people to experience a rise in their cholesterol during a time that they have been losing weight, only to have it drop and level off once they are in maintenance mode for awhile.  The theory behind this is that in the process of having the excess fat sloughed off by the body, cholesterol from that fat somehow passes through the bloodstream, resulting in a temporary rise.  I probably didn't state that real elegantly, but I guess you will get the idea. 

My alternate theory (so you can take your pick here ;) )  would be that there might be room for improvement in your diet which would further improve your cholesterol level, and make you heart-attack proof.  I know you say you are below the governments recommended levels for cholesterol and saturated fat, however, my thinking would be that these recommendations might be too high in terms of promoting the optimal health for the greatest number of people.  I seem to remember that the stated goal of the American Heart Association was to reduce heart disease by 30%.  While that is certainly a big improvement, I have to ask, what about the other 70%?  There are a lot of doctors out there who feel that heart disease really ought to be virtually non-existent, and that diet plays a much larger part than genetics in this particular disease.  So, to sum up, the theory would be that recommendations for bigger changes in diet would lead to bigger changes in results. 

FYI: I hadn't heard of Quackwatch before, so I went there and did not find Dr. Fuhrman listed, thank goodness!

 

Original Post by dm84:

First off, congratulations.

However, the accuracy of this latest test is questionable.

Also, my cholesterol was just recorded at 126 (down from 150 since I was 15 years old,when I was obese and eating an atrocious diet of fast-food and sugary cakes), despite eating an omnivorous diet. What does that prove? Nothing.

What does your experiment prove? Nothing.

It's been shown that dietary cholesterol intake has relatively little to do with blood cholesterol readings.

The most important thing is that you eat a diet consisting of healthy foods and exercise. Otherwise, Cholesterol is mostly a hereditary issue.

 

hahahahah that's awesome! I'm really getting under your skin! See you on the forums yo.

Oh and btw, you're right, dietary cholesterol has relatively little to do with blood cholesterol.  I never said otherwise ;)  The evidence is abundantly clear that animal protein is more strongly correlated with blood cholesterol levels than saturated fat and dietary cholesterol.

Sirtori CR, Noseda G, and Descovich GC. "Studies on the use of a soybean protein diet for the management of human hyperlipoproteinemias."  In: M. J. Gibney and D. Kritchevsky (eds.), Current Topics in Nutrition and Disease, Volume 8: Animal and Vegetable Proteins in Lipid Metabolism and Atherosclerosis., pp. 135-148.  New York, NY: Alan R. Liss, Inc., 1983

Original Post by jenmcc:

First of all, mikelane - I apologize if I'm also coming across as raining on your parade - that was definetly NOT my intent!!! I think it's spectacular what you've done with your cholesterol numbers through diet.

Certainly diet plays a role. But genetics do too. You can't control genetics, but you can control diet, and Mikelane is a perfect example of that. It's an extraordinary difference.

OTOH, I do believe my diet is under control (as is my weight and my exercise). If it wasn't, perhaps my totals would be well over 200.

 I didn't take it that way at all.  It's good to see all sides.  I was thinking about it and my drop is 25% which is within the range of possibilities in that article (he said 30% is possible, but generally it's between 10 and 20%).  

I agree totally that genetics plays a role.  Honestly, prior to this I was eating like crap.  If I had more of a genetic tendency to have high cholesterol I'm sure it would have been far higher than 200.  I've got no problem saying that this apparent genetic good-fortune could well have played a large role in my big loss (which, proves nothing btw, see above...lol).

I'm excited about it nevertheless and it clearly shows that a change in diet from one that would not be considered healthy in any sense (well maybe healthy in the sense of large quantities) to one that is extremely healthy (I'm learning how to be more healthy all the time and nobody's perfect) can have a dramatic effect on your blood cholesterol levels.

#20  
Quote  |  Reply
Original Post by mikelane:

Original Post by dm84:

First off, congratulations.

However, the accuracy of this latest test is questionable.

Also, my cholesterol was just recorded at 126 (down from 150 since I was 15 years old,when I was obese and eating an atrocious diet of fast-food and sugary cakes), despite eating an omnivorous diet. What does that prove? Nothing.

What does your experiment prove? Nothing.

It's been shown that dietary cholesterol intake has relatively little to do with blood cholesterol readings.

The most important thing is that you eat a diet consisting of healthy foods and exercise. Otherwise, Cholesterol is mostly a hereditary issue.

 

 hahahahah that's awesome!  I'm really getting under your skin!  See you on the forums yo.

Getting under my skin? Nope. lol 

 

 

48 Replies (last)
Recent Blog Post
After many unsuccessful attempts, Kafination took a good look at herself and realized that enough is enough. Despite multiple stressors, she made herself a warrior and battled through a long, hard journey, which was worth every minute. She is now 150 pounds lighter, with a new outlook on life and trying things she'd never thought of doing before.  

Continue reading...