In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series of articles we learned from the book Cholesterol Clarity that saturated fat and cholesterol do not clog your arteries and give you heart disease. And that the commonly held belief they do, stems from compromised government sponsored research. The Cholesterol Lie continues today, even in the face of significant contrary evidence because of ignorance and very powerful vested interests.
We also learned that doctors are pretty much limited to treating “high cholesterol“ by the accepted Standard of Care which recommends that patients should convert to a low-fat high-carb diet and be prescribed cholesterol lowering statin drugs.
Statins will indeed significantly lower cholesterol levels, but have never been empirically shown to reduce the occurrence of heart disease. In fact, since their introduction in the early 1990’s the rate of heart disease among men and women in the United States has only risen. Heart disease is the number one killer of adults in America and is soon expected to follow suit worldwide.
We discussed the dangers and side effects of statins, both physical and mental. Essentially they can result in fatigue, muscle soreness, joint pain and a loss of memory and mental acuity. And there is also mounting evidence for an increased likelihood of diabetes and Alzheimer’s with statin use.
Let us now have a look at the dietary prescription for “high cholesterol.” The accepted Standard of Care advice is to convert to a low-fat high-carb diet; a diet which minimizes foods high in saturated fat and which includes plenty of “healthy” whole grains and vegetable oils.
Converting to low-fat eating pretty much necessitates a high carbohydrate diet. Especially since most carbohydrate based foods are low in fat, as opposed to many proteins (such as meats) which are high in fat and cholesterol. Calories must come from somewhere and there is pretty much an inverse relationship between fat and carbs if you attempt to minimize one over the other.
And with all of the cultural momentum behind the Cholesterol Lie, the food industry has been more than willing to jump on the band wagon. Grain based carbohydrates (wheat, rice and corn) happen to be very profitable and are now pervasive in our diets. Kraft Industries, for example, has increased its revenues by 1800 percent since the late 1980’s, largely through grain based products. This is in parallel with the U.S. government’s support for the Cholesterol Lie and low fat foods, particularly “healthy” whole grains.
Next time you are at the grocery store have a close look around. Outside of the meat, produce and dairy aisles, pretty much everything else contains some form of grain; primarily flour from wheat. And added to these grain based products to make up for a lack of taste from the missing fat is refined sugar—another insidious carbohydrate.
If you think about your three meals a day, plus morning, afternoon and evening snacks, each one will likely contain a significant portion of carbohydrates from wheat, sugar and starches: for breakfast there is cereal, toast, bagels and pastries; for lunch there is pizza, sandwiches and French fries; and for dinner there is pasta, rice, more bread and traditional sweets for dessert. In addition, every sweetened beverage and chocolate or candy based treat is loaded with refined sugar.
This adds up to a tremendous amount of calories from highly refined and processed carbohydrates. Even if you were to eliminate or minimize the refined sugars, it is clear that the modern diet is very high in carbohydrates; they dominate each of our meals just as the doctor ordered.
The only problem with this prescribed scenario is that we did not evolve to eat and metabolize this many carbohydrates. Consider that 99.5% or more of our human evolutionary history was as hunter-gatherers. It is only very recently, in evolutionary terms, that we have become agricultural based societies and consumed grains. As hunter-gatherers we ate meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, greens, fruits and berries.
In the Paleolithic era our bodies evolved to convert the minimal carbohydrates (sugars) we consumed from seasonal fruits, berries and tubers to fat for energy storage. This was important for survival over the winter months when fewer calories were available from nature.
It is important to understand that when digested, all carbohydrates are metabolized into glucose (sugar) in your bloodstream. So modern grain based products such as bread, pasta, and rice essentially end up as sugar in your blood. Think bread equals sugar. The pancreas then releases insulin which converts the glucose to fat for storage.
This was very healthy and adaptive in Paleolithic times when carbohydrates were a very limited portion of the human diet. But it is not at all healthy today with the very large volume of carbs we now consume. We simply did not evolve to eat and metabolize that many calories from what ends up as being essentially sugar.
– “… virtually every chronic disease is tied to the overconsumption of carbohydrates and the lack of healthy fats in our diet.”
– “Chronic inflammation—due in part to eating sugar, blood sugar-raising carbohydrates like whole grains, and processed foods—is the true culprit in heart disease.”
– “Consuming excessive amounts of carbohydrates is more fattening than eating saturated fats. This is a truth you won’t hear from mainstream health professionals”
– “Here’s the stone cold truth: You are healthiest when you consume healthy fats—as God naturally made them, in plants and animals—and dramatically reduce carbohydrates in your diet.”
So as you look around at all the overweight people in today’s society and hear about all the chronic health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, dementia, allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, low testosterone, high blood pressure, etc.—think carbohydrates.
A good way to think about our evolutionary history in consuming grains is to compare it to 1 year’s time.
If all of human evolution were compressed into 1 year, we have been eating agricultural based grains for 1 day. We’ve come from a long history, about 2.5 million years, of eating very simple whole and natural foods, excluding grains. During that time, humans adapted to thrive for many hours and sometimes days between full meals; this was simply the reality of our Paleolithic ancestors.
Compare that to today. We eat constantly; every 3-4 hours, seven days a week. And that what we eat is primarily highly processed and refined high calorie carbohydrates. It is no wonder we are in the shape we are in, even with all of our modern technology, knowledge and medicine.
And to make things even worse, consider the case of vegetable oils which are also lauded by the “experts” as a healthy alternative to naturally occurring saturated fats. Applying the same 1 year evolutionary timeline we did for grains, tells us we’ve been consuming vegetable oils for about 1 hour.
It seems that if carbohydrates from grains are proving so detrimental to our health, that another highly processed and manufactured foodstuff we never adapted to consume would very likely do the same.
Consider these jaw dropping facts about vegetable oils as discussed in Cholesterol Clarity:
– “All the same health experts and organizations warning us about high cholesterol levels and saturated fat, and telling us to add “healthy” whole grains into our diet, have also been actively promoting vegetable and seed oils: corn, peanut, sesame, safflower, sunflower, and canola oils”
– “But make no mistake: They are among the most dangerous substances in the food supply you can put in your body.”
– “They are in everything: salad dressings, pasta sauces, doughnuts, granola bars, whole-grain breads, mayonnaise, and crackers. It seems impossible for foods to be processed without them.”
– “The oils used in cooking by most families, such as vegetable oils, are loaded with omega-6 fatty acids, and these have led to more heart disease. These fats are directly impacting your cholesterol by oxidizing it, which is leading to cardiovascular damage.”
– “The introduction of very, very cheap man-made seed oils are the reason we are now consuming more omega-6 fats than our bodies can possibly cope with.”
– “Here you are thinking that you are healthy because you are using oils that reduce your cholesterol when, in reality, your body is becoming much more atherogenic—that is, more susceptible to heart disease or a heart attack. And yet few health “experts” are talking about this.”
Once again it seems like the truth is the very opposite of the commonly held belief. Just as with carbohydrates such as “healthy” whole grains, “heart healthy” vegetable oils are unnatural and unhealthy for us to consume—especially in the quantities we do today as a replacement for natural, unprocessed foods including those high in saturated fat.
What and How to Eat
Let’s keep this very simple by first specifying what not to eat. If you eliminate grains, refined sugar and vegetable oils you’ve won half the battle. If you want to go full bore, cut out the alcohol as well.
So what’s left? Nothing but whole, natural foods: beef, chicken, pork, fish, seafood, eggs, vegetables, tubers, fruit, nuts and dairy.
Cook with butter, olive oil and coconut oil.
Limit your beverages to water, coffee and tea. Add a little milk to the coffee and tea if you’d like, but avoid the sugar.
Remember, a lion doesn’t care what he eats as long as it’s natural and he eats his fill. Eat with purpose and precision. Get down to business and eat like a man. Get serious.
And if you would like to mimic our paleo ancestors even more, don’t eat for at least 16 hours each day. Don’t eat after dinner and skip breakfast—an easy 16 hour fast. This will give your body a chance to cleanse itself each day and burn fat for energy. Be patient and give it some time. Tough it out until it becomes easy. It will raise your adrenaline, energy and mental focus. You will perform at a higher level.
I do 24 hours Monday, Wednesday, Friday and 16 hours every other day.
Harden your character a little bit and remove your reliance on eating every 3-4 hours. Separate yourself from the norm. Add some control and discipline to your life through intermittent fasting. It will toughen you up and, surprisingly, add a measure of peace of mind to your life.
There just seems to be something right and virtuous about self-directed discipline, denial and restraint.
And your diet is the best place to start.
The Numbers to Understand
A standard blood test as part of a physical exam will return what is called a Lipid Panel. In short, these will contain your cholesterol numbers. There are four basic numbers to consider:
- Total Cholesterol
- LDL (bad cholesterol)
- HDL (good cholesterol)
Generally speaking your doctor will focus on the top two, when really you should be looking at the bottom two.
The recommendation for Total Cholesterol is a score below 200 and for LDL is a score below 100. These are conveniently nice round numbers aren’t they? They also happen to be pretty arbitrary and quite nebulous.
The reason both of these numbers are much less significant than the HDL and Triglyceride numbers is that each of the former two contain both positive and negative components.
Consider this comparison. If you were told the total score for both teams at a basketball game was 200, would that be good or bad? That number is kind of meaningless isn’t it? Well, the same goes for a Total Cholesterol score because it is made up of both the good cholesterol (HDL) and the bad cholesterol (LDL).
Similarly, LDL cholesterol is also comprised of good and bad components. There is good LDL (pattern A) and bad LDL (pattern B).
It seems then, that more important than the arbitrary round numbers for Total Cholesterol and LDL, would be the actual breakdown of both of them. Keep in mind we’ve learned that cholesterol levels have no significant relationship with heart disease.
The facts are that 75% of people who have a heart event have cholesterol levels in the normal range and 50% have a cholesterol score in the ideal range. Population studies have also demonstrated there is no relationship between saturated fat consumption, cholesterol levels and heart disease.
Thus, how big both of the Total and LDL numbers are combined with the fact they contain positive and negative components and the fact that we need cholesterol to live, should lead us to look elsewhere for better indicators of heart health from our Lipid Panel.
Focus instead on the ratio of your Triglycerides to HDL (Triglyceride Ratio) and Total to HDL (Cholesterol Ratio).
Triglycerides are a negative number, so the smaller the better. Look for a score of 150 or better. Below 100 is very good and 50 or less is fantastic.
HDL is a positive number, so the larger the better. Look for a score of 40 or above. 50 is better and above 60 is ideal.
Ideal Triglyceride Ratio: as close to 1:1 as possible or less.
– “Knowing Your Triglyceride-to-HDL Ratio Is Critical to Assessing Heart-Health Risk”
Ideal Cholesterol Ratio: 3.5: or less.
– “… the total–to–HDL cholesterol ratio is the strongest independent blood lipid–based predictor of cardiovascular disease and mortality.”
Take a few hours to read Cholesterol Clarity and visit the websites of the many contributors to this jaw dropping book. Remember that no one will look out for your interests, health or otherwise, at the same level as you can. Your doctor just does not have the time. Long term, it is up to you.
If your doctor insists on prescribing you a statin because he or she is worried you might have heart disease because of your cholesterol level, insist on a CT Heart Scan. This is a non-invasive and inexpensive procedure that takes about 10 minutes which will physically measure the level of blockage in your arteries. It will give you an empirical Heart Calcium Score and leave no doubt either way.
Take control of your diet and health:
- Eat whole, natural foods: beef, chicken, pork, fish, seafood, eggs, vegetables, tubers, fruit, nuts and dairy
- Stop eating grains and refined sugar
- Quit or strictly limit alcohol
- Limit your beverages to water, coffee and tea
- Get adequate sleep
- Learn to understand your cholesterol numbers
Leverage the lessons you’ve learned from this series of articles and apply them to the rest of your life—like no other time in history, the world’s experts are available for every man who wants to pursue excellence and become the very best he can be.
The best place to start is with your diet and health. From there train your mind and then proceed each day with courage and virtue.
Take all the potential the Creator has given you, continuously develop yourself and live a glorious life.
All the best,