Thursday, April 14, 2011

The impact of a meat diet on triglycerides and cholesterol

I had my bloodwork done yesterday, and was excited to get the results back.  The last time had been almost exactly 6 months ago, in October 2010.  I decided to stop eating grains and sugar in August 2010, but eased my way into it a little bit - I had no trouble staying away from sugar, but I did, from time to time, eat some pulses or small quantities of quinoa.  The last month or two, I have been more consciously eating more meat, mainly ground beef, prime rib and lamb.  Whereas I used to prefer lean cuts if I wasn't eating vegetarian meals, I have been intrigued by the low-carbers' assertion that animal fat is perfectly ok.

So I would eat a bit of bacon here and there, and didn't bother pouring off the grease when cooking ground beef.  Whereas I used to use skim milk before, I've been pouring 2% milk in my coffee, and sometimes cream (I do prefer milk though), as well as eating as many eggs as I felt like.  Oh, and I drank quite a bit of coconut milk too.

The dieticians of Canada would be mortified to learn what I did.  One of the few things we do both agree on was staying away from trans-fats, but I've stayed clear of them since the early nineties, when I first found out about their potential dangers.

The dieticians would expect me to have elevated cholesterol and triglycerides because of all the meat, eggs and the additional fat.

They wouldn't have been disappointed, and I can just hear their disapproving tut-tutting over my solo meat and egg experiment.  This is what my bloodwork shows:
  • Cholesterol up 38% to 6.63.
  • This is quite a bit above the upper limit of the reference range (5.2)
  • My LDL cholesterol is up 41% to 4.22, which is also above the upper limit of the reference range (3.4).
If my BMI hadn't come down from a little over 25 to a fraction over 23 in that period, it would have been cholesterol lowering drugs for me, no excuses accepted.

But wait, there's more!

As it happens, I was keeping the good news for last.

Remember I wrote the other day about low HDL being by far the best predictor of heart disease?  And that triglycerides are the other measure to look at?  Are you curious?

Well, take a look at this to round off my bloodwork analysis:
  • HDL is up a whopping 43% at 2.21, which is at the upper end of the reference range (2.40)
  • triglycerides are down an almost unheard of 25% to a reading of 0.45
  • This is also 25% below the lowest reading in the reference range (0.6)
This is what the cardiologist, Dr. Davis has to say about triglycerides:
When fasting triglycerides are 60 mg/dl or less, most ... people will show little to no small LDL particles.
What this means is that when triglycerides are low, LDL, and by extension, total cholesterol become irrelevant.  LDL particles come in different sizes, and it's the smallest ones that are dangerous.  There are also big fluffy LDL particles, which are actually quite benign.   Our Canadian blood tests don't fractionate LDL, so the best we can do is look at HDL when considering cholesterol levels and heart disease risk.

I think you will agree that my HDL and triglycerides, in addition to my weight loss, the best predictors of heart disease, show absolutely no reason to be worried.

The dieticians of Canada warn that:
Many people find it difficult to stay on low-carb diets for long periods of time because food choices are so limited. They soon find themselves returning to their old eating habits.
Are they kidding me?  What planet are these dieticians on?  Do they have any inkling how encouraging it is to get such healthy bloodwork back?

Would you be tempted to return to a diet that includes bread, pasta and rice if you could be eating steak and salad every day, never feeling uncomfortable, bloated or unpleasantly hungry, and becoming healthier in the process?

Why would I want to choose a life of cycling between feeling stuffed and shaky-hungry?  And as for a lack of variety - I say that's complete nonsense.  The variety in your diet has nothing to do with carbohydrates, and everything to do with your creativity and imagination.


  1. I loved this article! Congratulations on your numbers, how wonderful, and how encouraging.

    I have to laugh every time someone says this lifestyle is too limiting -- I've never eaten so well in my life!

  2. I totally agree - not only is the food delicious but another way I know I'm on the right track healthwise is that my nails are really strong. That's always a telling sign.

    I like your blog, by the way. There's lots of interesting factual material to get lost in ;)