The table on the left displays my HDL cholesterol from 1980 to 2012. Okay, I’m a compulsive record keeper, but sometimes that’s a good thing. Advice is cheap, but lab reports are evidence, and mine are worth looking at. There is definitely a ‘takeaway.’
I was 39 when I had my first HDL test. It was 42, just above the border line “bad” of ≤ 40 for a man. Eleven years later (on my 50th birthday) my HDL was just 41. Of the first 10 HDLs (blue) recorded, 7 out of 10 were under 40, and the average and mean were both 39mg/dl. Not good. It was before or during this time in my life that I ruined my glucose metabolism. I was diagnosed a Type 2 in 1986, using the OLD 140mg/dl (vs.126 today) FBG standard!
For the next 16 years I went on eating as before, gaining weight and taking more and more diabetes meds. Before I started Very Low Carb (VLC) in September 2002, my baseline HDL was 48. My doctor had departed from the Standard of Practice by recommending VLC. But everything else he had asked me to do – the conventional advice for losing weight – had failed. Because I was a heavily medicated Type 2 diabetic when I started VLC, and VLC was outside “practice guidelines,” he saw me once a month for the first year. My average HDL for the next 12 months (yellow) was 47, a modest 20% increase. Eating VLC did, however, have a marked benefit on my weight and blood sugar control. During the first nine months, eating just 20g of carbs a day, I lost 60 pounds and, from the first week, stopped 1 and cut by half twice the other 2 oral diabetes medications that I had been taking for many years.
Then, for the next three years I coasted along, counting carbs and maintaining my weight until, in the summer of 2006, I regained 12 pounds raiding the freezer t night. But I was also lurking on Dr. Richard K. Bernstein’s Diabetes Forum and reading his books. So, I decided to try his 6-12-12 Way of Eating (WOE), 30g of carbs a day. Over the next year I lost 100 pounds. I also got off the last 5mg of micronase (a sulfonylurea), and my HDL shot up to 86 and my blood pressure dropped to 110/70 (on the same meds). My HDL average was 63 (green) during this time. In the next year I lost another 20+ pounds, and for the next 2 years my HDLs were all in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s including a 98.
The average of the last 10 HDL lab reports (red) is now 81. So, over the last 10 years my HDL average (oldest 10 vs. most recent 10) went from 39 to 81, more than doubling my HDL. That’s hard evidence. My diet was then 5% carbohydrate, 25% protein, and 70% fat.
My doctor used to read this blog. He has since died, but in 2011 he was looking for tips and “practice pearls” and suggested I write about “Foods that Raise HDL.” My answer (See Retrospective #34) is A VERY LOW CARBOHYDRATE diet. It is this WOE as a whole that has produced the HDL doubling for me, and a 2/3rds reduction in triglycerides. More on that later.
There is no pharmacological solution for raising HDL as there is for lowering LDL. To lower calculated LDL (and Total Cholesterol), you simply have to take a statin. But your doctor can’t just write a script to raise HDL. YOU have to do that by changing what you eat.
That’s okay with me. I think we all should take control of our dietary choices. Eat “healthy” fats (saturated and monounsaturated), and avoid as many carbs as possible. Your “lipid panel” (cholesterol) can be healthy again, without drugs, and this table is evidence.