Paleo and Cholesterol

The first time I ever heard about the Paleo diet was at my Crossfit gym a little over a year ago. We were going to do a 30-day “Paleo” challenge (which I think I actually ended up winning). Anyway, when my coach presented the information about the diet to me, my first reaction (out loud) was “This is totally going to raise our cholesterol”. My coach simply responded “No it won’t” and moved on from my commentary, probably knowing I was not informed of the details and benefits of the Paleo diet. Hey, I learned in school as a Registered Dietitian that a high fat/high saturated fat diet raises cholesterol, heart disease, cancer, etc. I learned it is a great idea to eat low fat foods to reduce calories and lose weight. I told my patients over and over, NO BACON! NO SAUSAGE! NO FAT! Switch to Smart Balance or olive oil! Avoid butter! Eat fat free dairy (btw fat free cheese is nasty and I could never tell anyone to eat it, but I digress…)

So, I started the Paleo challenge….and a year later I would still consider myself Paleo-ish. I have decided not to stress myself out about it, but I would say that 80% of my meals are Paleo. I eat cheese (so I guess, Primal? Who cares?), sometimes enjoy a Starbucks soy latte, and like to have milk in my tea on the weekends. I also don’t stress out if I eat some pizza with my boyfriend sometimes or if I have a freshly baked cookie at work (the smell makes them hard to resist!). I would say 100% of breakfasts and lunches are Paleo (pretty easy during the week) and most of my weeknight dinners. I will admit my compliance is not incredibly high, but I am working on a happy medium.  I also converted one of my coworkers to Paleo (the others are vegetarians- not going to happen) and that makes it easy to have a support person. Even the server at the cafeteria knows my diet and gives me the evil eye when I start eying the ravioli or rice.

After a year on Paleo (with varying degrees of compliance) here are my cholesterol results (I have genetically high cholesterol btw):

My results (after 1 year) My coworker’s results (after 2 months)
Before After Before After
Cholesterol 218 186 249 229
LDL 136 109 164 139
HDL 54 57 59 79
Triglycerides 142 101 79 55

Basically, as you can see, my numbers went from borderline high, to pretty normal. I realize I can still work on the triglycerides a  little bit (there are definitely places I can reduce fruit, added sugar, or wine), but overall my numbers are pretty good. My coworker didn’t have as much time as me for her before/after results, but there was a significant drop in her LDL and an increase in her HDL (even though she stopped exercising due to an injury during that time). These numbers decreased even though neither one of us lost any weight during the time we have been on Paleo, so the numbers cannot be attributed to a significant weight loss. I have always been pretty active with either Crossfit or boot camp, even at the time these numbers were measured.

What scares me is, that about a year ago I would have told everyone that a diet which included eggs and bacon DAILY would raise your cholesterol. Clearly that is not true for reasons I have discussed in other posts. So what do I do with this information? Do I go back to work and continue teaching a low fat, low cholesterol diet because that is what is required of my job? How do I even convince people that everything we were taught is pretty much completely wrong? How do you work within a society that does not believe that this is possible due to years of misinformation? I haven’t really figured out how to reconcile all of this with my actual job, since there is an expectation for me to provide a certain type of information. In the meantime, I have decided to speak really loudly in the cafeteria of the hospital where I work while serving myself bacon and eggs…..”hey do you know lowered my cholesterol by almost 40 points by eating this way???”….and I just pray that maybe the doctors are listening