“No butter on your corn?” I didn’t really say it, but I thought it. Our dinner guest that summer evening said he would “pass” on butter for the corn that my wife had prepared. In our house we only eat corn “in season,” and that means “in season in our immediate neighborhood.” My wife likes our corn picked that day. We also had local tomatoes and a meat course of beef short ribs prepared the way I love. For dessert we had local blueberries with heavy cream. For a Low Carber like me, this was a “special occasion,” when rules are meant to be broken (LOL).
But “no butter” on corn is not one of those rules. Besides, without butter, how can you get all the extra salt to stick? (LOL). Well, it turns out our dinner guest was taking a statin for his “high cholesterol” and was under the care of a physician who advised him to eat a diet low in saturated fat (and salt). That’s a surmise on my part – but a pretty safe one. Most physicians, and the general public, still believe the diet/heart hypothesis that associates saturated fat and dietary cholesterol with heart disease. Regular readers here know that that hypothesis has been completely disproven – that eating saturated fat does not cause heart disease, and dietary cholesterol (the cholesterol you eat) has nothing to do with serum cholesterol (the cholesterol in your blood). There are legions of corroborating articles by leading heart surgeons if you want to check this out for yourself. Or if you prefer a book, Dr. Malcolm Kendrick’s “The Great Cholesterol Con” is a good read.
The observation gave me pause for thought, though, and my mind drifted to my column. We hadn’t seen our guest for several years and so, for conversation, I mentioned that I was writing and publishing a blog. Our guest seemed interested and asked the subject. When I said “nutrition,” his reply was, to the effect, what qualified me to write about nutrition. I found myself on the defensive, and not very well prepared. Our guest was a very successful, now retired, attorney, but his training, life-long experience and instincts were still sharp. And my answer pretty lame.
Nevertheless, I told him that my course of self-study included a large library of books, articles and scientific papers I had read. He didn’t seem impressed. Afterwards my wife told me that I should have added my personal (n = 1) experience. She was right of course. I had lost 170 pounds and put my long-term Type 2 diabetes in remission, which allowed me to discontinue two oral diabetes meds and reduce the Metformin to 500mg/day). I had also dramatically reduced my A1c’s, improved my blood pressure and saw my inflammation marker (hsCRP) plummet.
But here’s the zinger I had in my quiver and had failed to use: I WAS ABLE TO DISCONTINUE TAKING STATINS!
I had at one time been taking 80mg of Lipitor a day to get my LDLs down to under 70, which my doctor advised due to multiple “risk factors.” But, as I changed my diet from the SAD to Very Low Carb, I was able to discontinue the statin because my HDL more than doubled and my Triglycerides fell by two-thirds. As a result, although my recent Total Cholesterol was still above 200 (215), and my LDL above 130 (133), my HDL was 70 and my triglycerides 58.
My new doctor, an internist and cardiologist, wrote: “your cholesterol profile currently conforms to the NCEP-3 standards.” The reason, in part, his letter continued: “A high HDL may mitigate some of this risk. Triglycerides should be 150 or less.” These National Cholesterol Education Program guidelines are used almost universally to inform clinicians on statin use.
On my latest visit, I had also asked for a VAP ™ cholesterol test to get more detail. This time my Total Cholesterol was 219, my LDL 131, my HDL 75 and my triglycerides 47. The best news in the VAP test, though, was that my LDL size/pattern was, “Pattern A – Large Buoyant LDL.” This news didn’t seem to impress my doctor, but it made my day. The doctor’s note on my lab report: “Stable, Similar to (previous visit).” So, bingo! No statins for me. Conclusion: If you eat the right diet, not the so-called “healthy diet” that is making so many Americans and people worldwide who eat a Western Diet, so very sick, YOU TOO MAY BE ABLE TO STOP TAKING A STATIN.
That is what I should have told our dinner guest. But I wasn’t at my best, or perhaps I was intimidated or too polite to give a better answer. Besides, it’s so much easier to have the perfect riposte, in writing, only a day late…