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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Cholesterol Too Low?

At a talk that I was giving, an audience member asked, "I was told by my doctor that my cholesterol was too low and I need to eat an egg a day."

My partner was reviewing a chart on a patient coming to see him, when he read the following sentence written by the patient's physician:  "Patient's LDL cholesterol is low, needs to eat more fried and fatty foods."


It's a little surprising the lack of knowledge about nutrution and cholesterol.

Unless you are in a state of severe malnourishment and illness, you do not need to worry about having too little LDL.  LDL, the low-density lipoprotein, is the so-called "bad cholesterol" that deposits cholesterol particles in the lining of the arteries and leads to increased plaque build-up that can in turn increase risk of heart attack and stroke.

Chloesterol is synthesized by the liver, and it comes from the food we eat.  While cholesterol is necessary for several functions of the body, our bodies make more than enough cholesterol that we do not need to eat foods to supplement those amounts.

In fact, there are people who have a mutation in the PCSK9 gene, and as a result they have LDL numbers as low as 15 (the recommended LDL cholesterol is less than 100).  These people do quite well, and in fact their risk of heart disease is much lower than that of the general public.

So, bottom line:  You do not need to worry about your LDL being too low.


AJP said...

That's funny. Jeff was told that his HDL was too low (he's been vegan for 7-8 years I think), but at least his doctor didn't say to eat any animal products.

The thing is, when you take statistics of large populations, there are going to be healthy people on either end of the bell curve (to some degree), and I'm sure that doesn't even consider that for vegans the bell curve is probably shifted to lower cholesterol levels, so you shouldn't compare with meat-eaters.

VeganHeartDoc said...

AJP, I was speaking only of LDL cholesterol, not HDL cholesterol. HDL is a completely different story, and a low HDL can be due to genetics, poor diet, and lack of physical activity.

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