As a Registered Dietitian, I have seen hundreds of patients trying to lower their cholesterol via a low fat, low cholesterol diet. Many patients come to me desperately trying to figure out why their cholesterol keeps increasing after years of avoiding fried foods, meat, bacon, eggs, and cheese. I learned in school,
that if a patient was not seeing results with a low fat, low cholesterol diet it probably meant they weren’t REALLY avoiding the foods they needed to avoid. Just a few years ago I believed that if a patient was truly eating lots of whole grains, very little fat, and avoiding red meat at all costs, they should have low cholesterol. But, after a while in this field, seeing one unsuccessful patient after another, I started to see that this was clearly not happening. How could ALL my patients be lying to me about what they were actually eating? Sure, there is a genetic component to high cholesterol and some people’s numbers are high no matter what they do, but these cases are rare. I didn’t feel that genetics was accounting for the lack of change I was seeing in my patients when they changed their diet according to my recommendations
The thing is that I was eating a “heart healthy” diet myself, exactly as I had learned in school. I knew I had a family history of high cholesterol and had to be careful with my diet. But, even in following the traditional recommendations (and who knew them better than me?), my total cholesterol was over 200. My LDL (bad cholesterol) was borderline high. How could this be? I ate oatmeal with fruit for breakfast, whole grain bread with fat free mayo, low fat cheese (or fat free, yuck!), and turkey for lunch, and whole wheat pasta with veggies for dinner! I used only olive oil for cooking, didn’t eat fast food, never ate anything fried, avoided eggs, and didn’t eat much red meat. Why was my cholesterol so high at only 27 years old? I had all the information and was following the recommended diet I had learned in school. Why couldn’t I lower my own cholesterol? Why were my patient’s struggling as well? Clearly there was something that was not right.
Part of the reason I became a dietitian is because I love how often the field changes, requiring a lot of research and constant learning to stay on top of all the new information. I like to try things out on myself before I make recommendations and don’t like to recommend diets if I am not seeing the results I think I should. I couldn’t accept that the low fat diet I was following was not keeping my cholesterol under control, especially since I was following exactly what I was taught and what was fully accepted by the medical and nutrition communities.
So, I hit the internet and did some research, I desperately wanted real results for my patients and myself, and didn’t want to provide information that clearly wasn’t working. I attended a few “alternative” nutrition conferences to try to discover different ways of thinking about heart health. After a lot of research into what would actually lower my cholesterol, I changed my diet. I quit following the “recommended” heart-healthy diet and I added back many foods that I had been avoiding for years.
After 6 months on this new diet, my cholesterol went down 32 points, my LDL was down 27 points, now all within normal levels. I also convinced a coworker to try the diet with me and her total cholesterol dropped 20 points and LDL dropped 25 points after only 2 months. Her HDL also increased by over 20 points, and she was not exercising (exercise usually raises HDL)!
When I told my doctor what I had done, including the dietary changes I had made, he told me it was impossible, that it couldn’t have been my diet that changed my cholesterol. He said “You must have a different kind of metabolism from other people!” Really? Clearly, he was wrong, it was my diet. It’s not his fault, his area of expertise is not nutrition and he is just following what the rest of the medical community has accepted as dogma. When you know better, you do better.
So I wrote a program manual called “How to actually lower your cholesterol” to help people like myself who are doing everything they can, following all the recommendations as closely as possible, and still not seeing the results they want with their cholesterol levels. It outlines exactly what you need to do to get your cholesterol down fast.