Reducing Triglicerides and Cholesterol

A couple of years ago my triglyceride and cholesterol levels were borderline high. My primary physician wanted me on statins immediately! For the rest of my life! What?!

Examining the numbers, I found that both my HDL (good cholesterol) and LDL (bad cholesterol) were at normal levels, but my overall cholesterol (good and bad combined) was borderline. My triglycerides were approaching borderline high levels as well.

Because I don’t like taking unnecessary prescription drugs, and I’m a smart-ass, I decided to do research instead of taking his advice.

Everywhere I looked I read that to lower cholesterol and triglycerides you needed to decrease fat in your diet. Cut out all that butter and meat! I had done raw food diets in the past for short periods. I decided to see what my blood levels looked like on a raw food diet. No meat. No dairy. Lots of fruit and veggies. I ate salads, wraps, and juiced quite a bit. Nuts for protein. Dates and fruit  to sweeten deserts. I allowed myself some rice and rice-pasta on occasion. The end result? No change. I lost some weight, but my cholesterol and triglycerides were still high.

I decided it was time to look at the science.

The first thing I reviewed was information on triglycerides. Instantly I questioned why any intelligent healthcare provider would recommend cutting fat intake to reduce triglycerides. Triglycerides are how the body stores excess carbohydrates. If my triglycerides were high, wouldn’t lowering carbohydrates be a better solution? Seemed logical.

I switched to a mostly Primal Diet instead. I ate plenty of meat, eggs, veggies and nuts. No sugar. Only low fructose fruits, like ripe bananas and strawberries, and fewer of them than on the raw diet. No grain, other than cheating with some rice and quinoa on occasion. It was low carb, but fairly high fat and high cholesterol.

After six weeks I had my blood tested. Both my triglycerides and cholesterol had plummeted! Interesting, by going against medical practice, increasing the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in my diet, I had brought down both my triglyceride and cholesterol blood levels to extremely healthy levels. If reducing blood cholesterol levels was the desired outcome, then this diet had been a total success.

I read up and tried to figure out why this might have worked for me.

As I mentioned, triglycerides are a way the body stores excess carbohydrates. Unless you have a genetic issue, high triglycerides are likely from consuming way more carbohydrates than your body needs. Even on the raw food diet I was apparently eating too much fruit, especially in the form of juice.

I read that the liver makes cholesterol out of triglycerides. This might explain why lowering triglycerides can lower cholesterol as well. It appears that my body is really good at storing sugar as triglycerides and equally good at producing cholesterol from those triglycerides.

Cholesterol is necessary for the body. It is required by the liver for the production of hormones, cortisol, and the production of vitamin D from the sun. Cholesterol is used to produce the bile acids in the gall bladder needed to break down fats and absorb vitamins A, D, E and K from food sources. The brain is made up of plenty of cholesterol. So, cholesterol is not a bad thing on its own, but too much LDL (the bad kind) in your blood can clog arteries.

The body will dump excess cholesterol with excess bile through the intestines. The intestines will also absorb some back into the body for reuse. If you’re digestion is working well, this can help regulate the amount of cholesterol in your system. Of course, the gall bladder only dumps bile when you eat fat. People often lose their gall bladders when they go on low fat diets, likely because the gall bladder needs to keep bile flowing. Knowing that I can eat cholesterol and still have low blood cholesterol likely means that my body is either good at dumping or bad at reabsorbing cholesterol.

At the same time, it’s important to mention that dietary cholesterol is not a necessity. A properly working body will produce its own cholesterol as needed. Consumption of cholesterol in food simply triggers a reduction in the production of the enzymes used to produce cholesterol, thus keeping balance. Eating cholesterol in reasonable amounts means you should simply be replacing the cholesterol the body would have produced anyway. Thus, cholesterol in butter, eggs, and meat is not necessarily a problem unless there’s way more in your system than your body needs or can remove.

In relationship to cholesterol, I assume a reduced sugar and carb diet will only work if your triglyceride levels are high. If your triglycerides are low, but your cholesterol is high, it seems more likely that the standard wisdom will actually be necessary. In that situation reducing the amount of fat and cholesterol consumed in food might be worth exploring, and the use of statins may actually be the only option if your levels are actually high (unlike mine) and do not come down through diet change. Our bodies all work slightly different, so we all have to explore what works for us individually.

I now keep my carbohydrate intake lower, especially on days I don’t get much physical activity. On days I get more exercise I allow my carb intake to increase slightly. While I do have the occasional gluten-free pizza, pasta, or ice cream, it’s a rare occurrence these days, and something I do mainly to make my family happy. I don’t worry as much as I used to about eating foods with fat and cholesterol, though I will continue to have a yearly checkup to make sure my cholesterol levels stay in a good range. Mainly I avoid sugar and eating too many carbohydrates. I also no longer drink juice, and avoid overeating fruit. Everything in moderation.

After adjusting my diet I found I had a lot more energy and stamina. Back when my triglyceride levels were higher I could not run, swim, or do any other form of exercise without running out of steam quickly. No matter how hard I tried to build up stamina each summer, I never could. Now I can outrun my seven year old daughter, and I make it through much more intense exercise sessions.

I’ve been doing this long enough that bakery and store bought treats taste way too sweet now. I no longer enjoy them. I prefer to make my own less sweet snacks and deserts. I’ve also noticed that if I do cheat more than one day in a row by  eating sugary snacks (usually because of a family event with leftovers pushed upon us) I start getting sugar and carb cravings. Sugar becomes an  addiction so quickly that I force myself to stop cold turkey after any day of sweets so as not to risk getting back on the sugar train and losing all that health and energy.


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  2. Ruma

    Very interesting, So it is not true always lowering fat always means lowers total cholesterol. My cholesterol is 255 , HDL 84(since I eat lot fish), I do not eat t much carb. But my body needs banana since I lack potassium. I shll try diet lot of protein, no sugar(I dont eat processed sugar ) but I eat fruit because no carb, I feel hungry. And I do exercise. I feel tired. My heart muscles were very weak. May be that is the reason, body is producing lot trigl/LDL. But this is very interesting and I am going to follow this. Too much nut is not good for me as I have protein C genetic disorder…how about dairy product milk or yogurt? How I shall get my calcium then if I leave this? it is very important to lower ch level since blood lacks oxygen in presence of cholesterol. Thanks for such interesting article. They have checked my HDl but not Trigly.

    • Al Bogdan

      Is it possible your doctor has your triglyceride numbers on file? You might want to call and ask. I request paper copies of every lab report because I like to review the numbers myself and keep them on file for reference. If I don’t request the reports, my doctor only mentions the numbers that he feels are out of range.

      If your triglycerides are on the high side, even the high side of normal, you might discuss with your doctor changing your diet to further decrease sugars and see if it lowers your numbers. Your doctor would likely need to monitor the progress of your experiment.You are correct that it might require a reduction in fruit, especially fruit juices if you drink them, as fruit juices are very high in calories.

      You may want to instead increase your vegetables, like cooked greens, which provide nourishment without all the sugar. Small portions of potatoes, sweet potatoes, or rice might be better absorbed than sweet fruits if you find yourself eating too many of them.

      Of course, if your triglycerides are low then I’d assume my experiment would not work for you, and might even be a bad idea. You should definitely find out your triglyceride levels.

      I assume high cholesterol and your blood clotting disorder are not the best combination. Hope you can get your levels down. Let me know if you do.

  3. Ruma

    That is the key. everything is in moderation.

    • Al Bogdan

      This is the truth.

      Sometimes hard to figure out what healthy moderation really is. I didn’t think I was eating too many calories until the blood tests came back…

  4. Ruma

    You told so truth that If I eat just one day body/brain craves for it. Really you have to control yourself. I have one more question, cholesterol level check up is it like blood sugar ..that post food check up will show elevated level. Can you please explain what is the source for LDL?

    • Al Bogdan

      I have not done my own experiments with specifically lowering LDL, so you might want to research “How to lower LDL” and you’ll find the same info I can offer.

  5. carmen

    It sounds like a good diet I am going to try it. Thank you.

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