By all traditional counts, I have high cholesterol and have always had high cholesterol. My counts have consistently topped the border of moderately elevated to high. I think my first cholesterol test was around 20 years old. Back then, my cholesterol was 232 mg/dL.
If you don’t remember what the categories and measurements are for cholesterol, here they are.
- Good, total count under 200 mg/dL.
- Moderately elevated total count 200-239 mg/dL.
- High total count of over 240 mg/dL.
- Really high is over 500 mg/dL.
In Chinese Medicine, there are all sorts of reasons for high cholesterol. What frustrates me is I seem to be able to treat everyone else’s high cholesterol but my own. My thoughts were, “What am I missing?”
I reduced my fat intake and moved to more protein and carbs. My cholesterol didn’t budge. I started overeating protein and found that it impacted my kidneys. So, I moved to vegetables and carbs and found I was able to gain weight and feel tired. Carbs just were never my friend.
Then my cholesterol levels went up. What? I wasn’t eating fat.
I even broke down and tried statins. Within 3 days, I was able to get every side effect that was considered “serious” and warranted immediately stopping statins.
So now what? I pretty much had given up.
I ran across “Sugar: the Bitter Truth” with Robert H. Lustig, MD, UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology. When it comes to health, there is not a one size fits all. With especially complicated issues, it can take multiple different perspectives. Although this lecture is from 2009, his research is relevant and identifies non-traditional methods of getting high cholesterol.
Around 11 minutes, Dr. Lustig talks about the 1982 campaign to reduce heart disease by eliminating fat. This was part of the hypothesis that fats caused LDL cholesterol levels to increase. Over the next decades, the US reduced consumption of fats, and the rate of heart disease and heart attacks increased.
Here is where the research starts to get interesting. We don’t just have one type of LDL. We have two. One is called LDLa and is identified as large buoyant cholesterol that floats through the bloodstream. The other is called LDLb and is defined as small dense cholesterol that can tunnel its way into the arterial walls.
I bet that just gave you a clue that not all LDL’s are bad. The large, fluffy LDLa is actually a good LDL. The small dense LDLb is the bad stuff. The small dense LDLb is heavy and sinks to the arterial walls where it can start plaques.
If LDL is not broken out into LDLa and LDLb on your blood draw, how can you tell how much bad cholesterol you have? Dr. Lustig points to the triglyceride level. A low triglyceride level indicates your LDLa is mainly the good guys. Woot! Things are looking good. Whereas, a high triglyceride level says your LDLs are primarily the bad guys. Boo, hiss, hiss.
Couple this with a triglyceride to HDL (high-density lipoproteins) of less than 3, and you’re doing really well.
Dietary fats raise your LDLa levels (the good guys). What surprised me was dietary carbohydrates raised your LDLb levels (the bad guys)! You saw what I said earlier. I had finally switched over to carbohydrate and vegetable diet to try and address my health and that was a complete fail. Not only was I able to gain weight, but my cholesterol levels also started spiking.
I remember as a teenager trying macrobiotics. My mom was on a stringent macrobiotic diet for cancer. To learn more, check out my book “Caregivers Survival Guide, how to eliminate stress in 30 minutes with Chinese Medicine and other useful tools” available on Amazon. After two weeks, she said she felt great. My sister did the diet. Two weeks later, she was feeling great. I did the diet. Two weeks later, I was feeling like crap and starting to gain weight. Three weeks later, I was even more exhausted and depressed. I was bloated and weighed more. I also was not feeling an end to the “detox” portion of the eating regime.
I finally broke my eating regime and pounded down a pizza and a milkshake and felt great. I also started losing weight. The macrobiotic diet my mother was on was a limited high carbohydrate diet. It really didn’t work for me. I wonder if part of the reason the diet worked for my mother and sister was that they were both Blood Type B and I wasn’t. To learn more about blood types, check out “Blood Types and Your Risk of Covid-19.” Sure, it looks at how blood types affect Covid-19, but it also shows more on blood type research and how to get more information on blood types, food, and disease.
I had an idea that carbs were my nemesis. When I started consuming high fructose corn syrup in foods, drinks, and just about anything that is food, my health worsened.
I had always thought glucose and fructose were processed the same in the body. I can tell you, my nutrition classes, my biology classes, my health classes, none of them suggested these two types of sugars were different and processed differently in the body. I took a nutrition class as recently as 2012 at Washington State University. The course talked about glucose and fructose, stating these molecules had 4 calories per gram. Not much of anything else.
The thing is, glucose and fructose are not processed anywhere near the same in the body. When you consume glucose, 80% of glucose disseminates throughout the body for immediate use. 20% is stored in the liver as glycogen. The liver can store any amount of glycogen because it is non-toxic.
Fructose is processed similarly to how the body processes ethanol in the body, except that fructose, is not metabolized in the brain. The lack of the ability of the brain to use fructose is fascinating because the most significant energy source for the brain is glucose or sugar. Also, unlike glucose, where only 20% of the sugar goes to the liver, 100% of fructose transfers into the liver. Only the liver can metabolize fructose. Watch this video to learn how to detox your liver.
As fructose is getting metabolized in the body, the molecule goes through phosphorylation. Here a phosphoryl molecule is attached to the fructose. I bring this up for only one reason. Because so much more material is being pushed through the liver when you consume fructose, it runs into a resource problem with the phosphoryl molecules.
When I was growing up, Malt-o-milk was made with lecithin. Lecithin has a phosphate group, and I use to crave lecithin. I would put tablespoons of this in my malt. I could eat it off the spoon. Even today, I like lecithin. Today, Malt-o-milk is not made with lecithin.
But fructose doesn’t stop there. Whereas almost no glucose is converted to fat, a whopping 30% of the fructose is converted to fat. So, when fructose is not going off increasing your blood pressure, consuming your resources, causing insulin resistance, it’s getting transformed into fat and cholesterol.
Dr. Lustig’s information was especially relevant because my triglycerides had always been low, and HDL had always been high. If his research is correct, then my cholesterol levels are proper. Even though my cholesterol falls in the moderately high range, because my triglyceride to HDL ration and the total level of triglycerides and HDL are in the right ranges, my LDL should be the good LDL. And, Dr. Lustig’s research outlines a potential reason for my increasing cholesterol levels. Excessive consumption of High Fructose Corn Syrup.
In 2010 FDA approved statins for primary prevention of Cardio Vascular Disease (CVD). Since 2010 statins can be prescribed to every adult male over 50 years old and female over 60 years old as a preventative therapy whether the patient has high cholesterol or not. The profitability of statins increased, making it challenging to present research that takes a less than favorable light of statins. The efficacy of statins as treatment continues to depend on who you ask.