Cholesterol numbers

Well, good news. Despite my drastically increased intake of animal foods in the last year, my cholesterol count looks fabulous. My doc actually told me “You can eat anything you want. You could even add some deep-fried lard sticks, if you want.” My numbers are very slightly changed over last year – see below

Total cholesterol: 169 (up from 157); optimal is under 200
HDL (“good”): 75 (up from 65); optimal is 60 or higher
LDL (“bad”): 85 (don’t know last year’s); optimal is under 100
Triglycerides: 44 (don’t know last year’s); optimal is under 150

My total Chol/HDL ratio is 2.3 – a very good ratio suggesting I’m at no real risk for heart disease.

I eat cheese once or twice a day and meat about twice a day. It’s all from pasture-raised, healthy animals, and though I rather actively avoid lean meat (tastes like sawdust), I do keep portion sizes reasonable (3-4 oz, usually).

YMMV, but this says to me that all meat is not created equal.



  1. Ed Bruske said,

    February 15, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    Emily, your cholesterol levels will have nothing to do with the amount of animal flesh or animal fat you eat. They are determined almost exlcusively by genetics and by carbohydrate consumption. It is almost axiomatic now in the medical research community: restrict carbs, and blood chemistry instantly improves.

    • Emily said,

      February 15, 2010 at 5:01 pm

      And yup, I’m definitely eating fewer carbs these days! Now for mainstream medicine to catch up with the research…

  2. Aimee said,

    February 15, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    From everything ive read, pasture raised meat and eggs have a dramatically superior lipids profile compared to conventionally raised. Consider yourself proof !!

  3. February 16, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    I’ve read the same as Aimee, that the green plants the animals are eating on pasture boost the Omega-3 Fatty Acids and such and the lack of grain decreases the Omega-6 Fatty Acids.

  4. Sara said,

    February 17, 2010 at 9:08 am

    I’m happy to hear that your cholesterol levels are good. What you are eating appears to be good for you at this time of your life.

    However, I don’t think it is possible to generalize from one person on one day. For example, when I tried to join a study on diet’s effect on cholesterol, my total cholesterol at 120 was too low for the study. My main motivation for joining was that the study would provide all of my food for several months. At the time my diet was heavy on the cheapest possible complex carbohydrates — lots of white rice, cornmeal mush, and white pasta, whichever cost least. Now I eat a more normal diet, and have higher cholesterol. I don’t think that either of our experiences are generalizable.

    • Emily said,

      February 17, 2010 at 9:44 am

      That’s a very good point. It was just curious to me that I’ve always heard “don’t eat bacon or your cholesterol will go through the roof!” and yet mine didn’t. The human body is a complex beast, no? 🙂

  5. teacherpatti said,

    February 22, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    Yay, Emily! 🙂

  6. teacherpatti said,

    February 22, 2010 at 6:43 pm

    Yay, Emily 🙂

  7. February 28, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    I’m pretty convinced that so long as one’s diet isn’t outrageously unhealthy, it’s a minor factor in cholesterol levels. My mother’s family has great genetics where heart disease is concerned, and none of them are overweight even well into their 60’s. One is teetotal and vegetarian, one still clings to a low-fat diet, one will hardly touch a vegetable, unless it’s a potato or a frozen pea, one eats only two meals a day with lots of shellfish, and fresh vegetables, and another eats a very “Mediterranean” diet, while hitting the booze somewhat hard. They’re all in good physical shape with good numbers. My mother and her sisters all had exceptionally low triglycerides and overall cholesterol for many years, and then the numbers jumped significantly (though still well under numbers that concern doctors) as each of them hit menopause. None of them had significantly changed their dietary habits or activity levels during that time. I’ll be curious to see how my own numbers change after menopause. At the moment, they’re pretty darn good considering I deny myself neither carbs, nor (grass-fed) meat, nor fried eggs (our own).

    It just makes me think that our understanding of nutrition and the way it interfaces with human health is at a very rudimentary stage. Was it Pollan who said that nutrition may be a science, but if so it’s at the level that surgery was 400 years ago.

  8. Carol Milstein said,

    March 17, 2010 at 10:20 am

    I’ve been fighting the cholesterol fight for years – was on medication (Lipitor), and couldn’t seem to drop the numbers, even though my diet is relatively healthy – lots of veggies, not much red meat, no fast food, etc. Last summer, my integrative medicine doc suggested that I stop eating processed foods, since studies have shown that an indicator of heart disease is high levels of inflammation, which is linked to consumption of processed foods. At the same time, I was reading Michael Pollan’s book “In defense of food”, and began to be a true believer in basic foods instead of “edible foodlike substances”. My doc calculated my risk of an “incident” within the next 10 yrs (2%), and told me to go off the medication for 6 months and see what happened.
    I did, and my total cholesterol numbers jumped to over 300!!..However, the “good” cholesterol, the triglycerides, and the inflammation were all great numbers, and my doc said that was a direct result of eliminating processed foods.(probably also losing some weight)
    Alas, I had to go back on medication because my LDLs were really high, and she said no amount of diet/exercise would change that. But I’m still a believer in non-processed foods, of being able to pronounce every ingredient in things that I buy, and knowing where my food is coming from.

  9. nutritionsupplementsreviews said,

    August 21, 2010 at 6:30 pm

    By eating smaller meals more often and including proteins as you said you are able to keep your metabolism at a steady rate. This is good for cholesterol management as well as weight control.

  10. luniet said,

    August 28, 2010 at 11:35 pm

    Good for you. I hope you keep running the great job in controlling your cholesterol. Don’t forget to take high fiber food to your menu, it’s good for our cholesterol health.

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