This is a great and very common question from a reader!
I’m a recent convert to Paleo and have my wife interested as well. We’ve been doing it for about a month now and I’m very happy to have almost completely rid ourselves of processed boxed foods. But I was wondering, seeing as how you’ve been on it for years, if you or anyone else has seen positive changes in their blood chemistry? I guess I’m speaking specifically about cholesterol, but also the LDL’s, HDL’s, trigylcerides, and ratios.There is a lot of talk on other blogs about cholesterol numbers going way up but ratios improving, and that the pharmaceutical industry is happy to keep us taking their statins to keep total cholesterol numbers down, etc, etc. I’m an engineer and I believe in examining evidence and empirical data, so I’d like to ask if you and the others in the community you’ve spoken to are happy with your current blood screening numbers, or at least I’d like to hear your opinion on the matter.Thanks so much!
Yes, it turns out that cholesterol – the way we’ve been testing it and reading it – is not a very good predictor of heart disease, and a lot of the research that’s gone into it has been funded by pharmaceutical companies and very flawed. Plus, the media takes great liberties with the results of said studies and just blatantly states “Meat Will Kill You” when that’s not what the results actually said at all. Anything to get people to read their stuff.
Having said all that, I’ve seen my heart health markers improve a lot on Paleo, and I’ve heard from MANY other people that they have too. I had a lot of inflammation going on and weird cholesterol numbers, but since going full Paleo all of that has settled down and normalized. I get my heart markers tested by a naturopath, since he doesn’t just focus on LDL or HDL, but all the little pieces of LDL and HDL (the ones that actually matter for inflammatory reasons). And he tests other aspects of heart health. All in all, he tested:
- Cholesterol and cardiac inflammation stuff, including:
- Lipids – LDL, HDL, total cholesterol, triglycerides
- Lipoprotein particles and apolipoproteins – more heart health molecules of all sizes (small dense LDL, Apo B etc.)
- Inflammation oxidation and homocystein – markers of cardiac inflammation or oxidation (the real indicator of heart disease risk)
- Myocardial stress – detects heart stress and damage
- Genetic markers for specific diseases and malfunctions
- HbA1c – average blood sugar over last 3 months
- Omega 3/Omega 6/other fatty acids content in red blood cells – inflammation
All of which is very important in actually determining if you have inflammation in your system that may end up in a heart attack or stroke.
So, my opinion of it is that yes, sometimes people’s LDL goes up, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. You have different kinds of LDL, some of which are more prone to becoming inflamed and causing cardiac events. Most of the time, people’s numbers improve, especially their triglycerides, since those are so affected by how many extra carbs you’re eating.
Go for it. Try Paleo/Primal out, and if you’re really worried about it, ask a holistic doc or a naturopath to test you before you start and after 60 days on the diet so you can know for sure how it’s affecting you.
If you really want to get into the research and literature about it all, Chris Masterjohn is the guy to read. He’s a PhD Research Associate at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, who spends his life studying this, and clarifying myths about cholesterol. You can find him at?
- Cholesterol and Health Website
- Cholesterol and Health Blog
- A great interview with him and Chris Kresser
- His blog on the Weston A Price site
Hope that helps!