The Amateur Food Detective

The Amateur Food Detective
Bluebird Acres Farm in Friendship, NY

Friday, March 23, 2012

Knocking Back Cholesterol Without Drugs

Have you ever wondered why some people can eat whatever they want, whenever they want, yet never get fat or have issues with cholesterol?  There's one word that solves this riddle...genetics.  Up until a few years ago, I never gave this much thought.  After all, I worked out regularly, watched what I ate, and lived a pretty clean lifestyle.  Why should I worry about cholesterol?  The answer came in the form of a wake-up call.  Make that three wake-up calls.

First, my mother revealed to me that both she and my father had high cholesterol and were put on Lipitor by their doctor.  At first, I found this hard to believe.  Granted, my parents were in their early sixties at the time but they live the cleanest lifestyle of anyone I know.  We're talking about two people who are still within five pounds of their high school bodyweight....forty some odd years later.  Lipitor?  My parents?

It was about this time that I got the second bucket of cold water dumped over my head.  I got my cholesterol checked....189.  Not too bad according to today's standards but my doctor told me that, given my family history, it would continue to go up until I'd eventually need cholesterol lowering drugs.  Now that's something to look forward to.

Not long after this, I got the most startling news of all.  Bob, my new neighbor, had a nearly fatal heart attack at age 37.  Turns out, his cholesterol level was over 500!  According to Bob, his mother's level was just as high.  After a successful bypass, his doctors did what all doctors do nowadays - they put him on a mega dose of cholesterol lowering drugs.  This worked for a while but the side effects were so bad, Bob went back to his doctor and asked for an alternative.  There was no alternative....according to his doctor. 

Bob begged to differ and did a little research of his own.  He came across a book by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn:  Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease.  This book made the bold claim that eating a strict vegan diet which excludes any and all oil (even in the ingredients of food) will not only prevent heart disease but actually reverse it.  In addition, it has a cholesterol lowering effect that rivals (and even beats) many drugs for some individuals.  Bob bought the book and brought it in to his cardiologist....the same guy who told him there were no other alternatives.  To his surprise, the cardiologist spoke highly of Dr Esselstyn and said his claims were essentially true.  So Bob asked the obvious question - why didn't you tell me about this?  The cardiologist calmly replied that "no one can stay on this diet."  And that was that.

Bob wasn't buying it.  He went on the diet and it ultimately had the effect of allowing him to go on a much lower dosage of the drugs.  He can't eliminate them completely, due to his incredibly bad genetic profile for cholesterol, but the dosages are tolerable now....and the side effects have come way down as well. 

Given my family history, I decided to give the Esselstyn diet a whirl.  I didn't just go into this on a whim though, I had blood work done beforehand.  Sure enough......189.  Next, I read the book....fascinating.  Finally, I hit the diet - no more meat, cow's milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, or any foods with even a trace of oil in the ingredients.  What I found was that I was buying most of my food in the organic section at Wegmans.  The grocery list consisted of pasta, rice, Ezekial bread (the only kind without oil), soy milk, soy meat substitutes, and loads of fruits and vegetables.  My stir fry sauce was a mixture of red wine, vinegar, and maple syrup - sounds gross but it's really pretty decent.  Homemade protein bars turned out to be a life saver on this diet as well. 

After seven weeks of this Spartan diet, I went back to my doctor and had the bloodwork taken again.  I opened the mail about a week later to get my results.  I couldn't beleive it - my overall cholesterol had dropped to 140 - almost a 50 point drop!  All my other readings improved in tandem including LDL, HDL, and Triglycerides.  In the meantime, my bodyweight dropped by close to ten pounds....and I wasn't even trying to lose weight.  My energy levels were way up and I never felt more healthy. 

This convinced me, more than ever, that there are natural ways to improve one's health.  The strict vegan diet may not be for everyone but it is, at the very least, an alternative to the typical drug regimen.  Not to mention that this diet can actually reverse heart disease over time, since the lack of oil dries out the arteries.  This drying effect enables the arteries to slowly erode years of plaque buildup into the bloodstream, where it's ultimately eliminated.   Esselstyn demonstrated this in his book with before and after x-rays of his patients' arteries.  No drug on the planet can make that claim.

My experiment is over now but my eating habits will never be the same.  My diet is cleaner than ever before and I still stay away from meat and dairy.  I'm not following the strict Vegan diet per se, but I know I can do it again in the future if need be.  The best part is, I don't fear my genetics anymore.  I have options now - regardless of what the medical establishment might think.

7 comments:

  1. The other side of the argument is: One pill a day and I can eat what I want. You deprive yourself, I take the pill.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ha ha, anonymous. :) A pill is easier, that's for sure! As long as you don't get the side effects from taking a synthetic drug. I have to add that no matter what I put in my body, I will always have high cholesterol. But I do think it's worth trying alternative treatments to see what affects your body. Especially if you do usually get side effects from taking medication. There are also people who believe if high cholesterol is your only risk factor, than it might not be worth taking medication or trying to lower it. I don't have the answer, I'm going to guess it's all very individualized. But I commend anyone who can lower their numbers through diet and exercise.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Cholesterol is not the thing to watch.
    Statin is THE thing to watch! Just do some search on the Internet and you will see why. It has multiple side effects - the final of which is a (or another major) stroke.

    Our body naturally produces cholesterol when there is arterial inflammation - even if your diet is low on cholesterol. The reverse is also true - if you consume a fair bit of cholesterol and have no inflammation, the cholesterol you consume won't get deposited into your blood stream.

    Cholesterol is naturally produced to counter inflammation. So, what this means is that if you get rid of cholesterol without curing the inflammation, you will be in for a big surprised! And this is exactly why so many deaths have been attributed to statin drugs.

    In any case, if you want to bring cholesterol down, there are many natural alternatives from Omega 3 oil to pure coconut oil. With a week, you will see your elevated cholesterol come down. But this is not the solution.
    The solution is to curb your inflammation, so that your body will stop producing the excessive cholesterol.

    If you want to curb your inflammation, there are a variety of cheap, natural, nutritious and healthy remedy available. No side effects, no big financial commitment and instant result.

    Bottom line: if your inflammation cannot be curbed for some exceptional reason, it is best not to reduce your cholesterol. It has been shown conclusively in research that the majority of people above 60 years of age who die of a stroke are those with low cholesterol. Those with high cholesterol remain healthy and fit. How come?

    Cholesterol is an important ingredient which fights infection. Most fatal heart attack and strokes come after a recent bout of infection, so if you have insufficient cholesterol to counter the infection, you will be at grave risk.

    There you have the truth of the matter. This is not my personal opinion but what I have pieced together from reliable sources. Read for yourself at:

    http://vitaminguardians.com/others/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's very interesting, and I have considered this possibility. I'm not sure why some of us are born with extremely high cholesterol and some of us are not, but it might be, as you say, the body's natural defense system. Great response, Sunflower. (Sorry I didn't answer earlier, somehow your comment ended up in my Spam folder that I just cleared out today.)

      Delete
  4. balanced diet and exercise will of course lower
    cholesterol level

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi, Knight Rider. I absolutely agree with you. I am living proof because even though I'm on Lipitor, my cholesterol is lower when I've been exercising regularly and eating more fish. Thanks for commenting!

    ReplyDelete
  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete