Debunked – The “Healthy” Low Cholesterol Myth

“I can’t eat meat, my cholesterol goes up!”

“I’m on statins to lower my cholesterol levels. I’m supposed to avoid eating fats.”

“Eating fat increases your risk of heart disease.”

Nope.

First off, here’s a short background on cholesterol:

What is cholesterol?

First, let’s discuss lipoproteins.

A lipoprotein is basically a regular cell membrane mixed with different types of proteins (apolipoproteins). Lipoproteins transport different fat-soluble substances (including fat-soluble vitamins, cholesterol, and triglycerides) in the bloodstream. Cholesterol is a fatty substance carried around in a lipoprotein.

There are two types of cholesterol-carrying lipoproteins. Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) are generally known as the bad cholesterol. It’s said that if you have high levels of LDL cholesterol, they can build up in your arteries and cause heart disease. Statins are used to lower your LDL levels. Then there are high-density lipoproteins (HDL) which are generally known as the good cholesterol. What is supposedly healthy are low levels of LDL and high levels of HDL.

Before quite recently, all cholesterol was thought to be bad. Here are Times Magazine covers suggesting people avoid cholesterol high foods. Fortunately, Time recently came out admitting that cholesterol wasn’t all bad, after who knows how many people suffered by cutting out the few healthy foods they were actually eating (fatty meat anyone?).

What does the actual research show?

There’s growing evidence that cholesterol is protective.

High levels of HDL cholesterol is associated with longevity.

High levels of overall cholesterol and LDL cholesterol is associated with better memory in the elderly.

Low LDL levels INCREASE your mortality risk (1,2,3).

High HDL decreases your mortality risk.

Higher levels of overall cholesterol REDUCE mortality risks.

Things about this whole cholesterol issue and the mainstream medical system that irritate me:

Here’s what the Mayo Clinic has to say about cholesterol and heart disease. This is a source that is supposed to be trustworthy. This is still what the medical community (generally) has to tell us about cholesterol. This is a website I used to rely on when I was trying to figure out what was wrong with me! That entire article is filled with information that is outdated, dangerous, and wrong. It says right on it that “eating saturated fat, found in animal products, and trans fats, found in some commercially baked cookies and crackers, can raise your cholesterol level (true). Foods that are high in cholesterol, such as red meat and full-fat dairy products, will also increase your total cholesterol. (true)” And that leads to heart disease. WRONG.

Then they tell you other factors that ACTUALLY lead to heart disease:

What actually leads to heart disease?

  • Obesity
  • Large waist circumference
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes

Then they tell you how to supposedly get rid of said risk factors:

  • Eat a low-salt diet that includes many fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
  • Limit the amount of animal fats and use good fats in moderation
  • Lose extra pounds and maintain a healthy weight

HA.  How are you supposed to lose weight by following their guidelines, eating fruits, veggies, even worse – grains- and avoiding meat? And what does salt have to do with it! Throwing salt under the bus and it’s 2018! Eating that way is literally the opposite of how you can lose weight! No wonder everyone is overweight, miserable, and dying of heart disease! Or we can listen to what the Mayo clinic suggests and blame the fact people are sick on them and their lack of exercise…

All those actual risk factors can be improved (if not eliminated) by eating differently, or by just going zero-carb (all meat).

I’m going to get my cholesterol tested in a couple of months, I’ll update this post then. Unfortunately, I don’t have a pre-carnivore look at my cholesterol levels to compare to.

TL;DR

There is NO strong evidence that cholesterol is bad. In fact, there’s much more evidence that it’s good for you, and that low levels are dangerous. If anything, low cholesterol is what you should be worried about. From my experience, most tests you can get at a doctor’s office (but not all) will just give you information that people (including your doctor) don’t understand, make you worried, give you a diagnosis, when you could eat zero-carb, solve your health problems, and not go through any of that worry.

Mercola writes a good article about cholesterol if you want to read more.

Comment if you have more scientific studies showing how cholesterol isn’t negative. Or comment about any studies about cholesterol you’d like clarified!

Posted in FAQ

37 thoughts on “Debunked – The “Healthy” Low Cholesterol Myth

  1. Meat eater says:

    mercola is considered a quack. Why do people trust this supplement selling ‘guru’ who only seeks to make money from his followers and even references himself when trying to find evidence, yet ignore scientific evidence? Why do people trust him over the thousands of scientific research papers that inform health science? He is not a qualified doctor or scientist. He isn’t even a cell biologist. he has no qualifications in nutrition and he plays into the big pharma conspiracy theory. He even sells products based on petri dish and animal studies which wouldn’t even be considered in normal mainstream medicine. Everything kills HIV for example, in a petri dish, even coconut oil. The joke is he doesn’t mind selling unnecessary supplements to make himself rich but rubbishes medicine because it’s being ‘pedalled’ to make people rich. Dear God, please don’t consider him a health ‘scientist’. His ‘evidence’ can be ripped to shreds in two seconds by any real health scientist.

    • Steph says:

      The “real health scientists” are what got us all into trouble in the first place! Let’s hear other points of view. Then we can weigh all the sides, see what the science truly says, and go from there. Debate is healthy. I haven’t read what Mercola says because the link isn’t working for me (although I’ve read a ton about cholesterol), but go ahead and start debunking, show us what he’s saying that is so wrong.

    • Simba says:

      Actually, Dr. Mercola is a licensed and board certified physician and surgeon. I’m sure that you aware of the myriad of reasons why scientific papers cannot be trusted at face value (cherry picking of relevant data, funding conflicts of interest, etc.). Just to give one example, Mercola warned the public about the cardiovascular dangers of Vioxx before the stuff even hit the market – before tens of thousands died and over 100,000 were strickened with heart disease. Everyone was touting its safety based on the studies – like they always do.

      Well, I refuse to blindly trust what someone says just because they are wearing a white coat – and that includes Mercola. However, I have found more things that actually worked for my own health issues on his website, then I ever found listening to mainstream physicians who don’t even understand basic nutrition.

    • Mikhaila Peterson says:

      Before I found out food was the cause of all my health problems, I thought Mercola was a quack too. Mostly because of that stupid website quackwatch.org which basically identifies any half useful doctor as a quack. Give his stuff a read, check the scientific articles he links to and decide for yourself. He has very in depth articles and links to more studies than any blog I’ve come across.

  2. Leesa Bella says:

    The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz is a great resource about meat and cholesterol and the science and known cultures eating primarily meat with no heart disease. I would like to hear more of your story and research and what prompted you to go this route. Unfortunately medical community for sure not on board with this approach and pharma will never be on board with this approach.

  3. Steph says:

    The Cholesterol Code website has some really good information, especially about what your cholesterol tests can actually show you – Remnant cholesterol and Triglyceride/HDL ratio. The website focuses on how to understand cholesterol in the context of a low-carb and/or keto diet.

    Glad to say that after eating a mostly meat diet for years, my husband’s bloodwork shows zero heart disease risk. I’d like to get him and I coronary calcium scans to verify, but we’ll have to go the U.S. to get them – $144 in Miami for a simple scan that shows how much calcium is in the arteries and what your heart attack risk is. So quick and simple and yet we can’t get it here pro-actively.

    • Mikhaila Peterson says:

      I’ll keep everyone posted about that. He’s thinking about it, he’s not doing as well as me but he’s blaming too much black tea right now (I’m inclined to think it’s the veggies). Dad, on the other hand, is starting zero carb when he gets back from Vancouver (April 8th).

  4. Marietta Pellicano says:

    Mikhaila: I’m glad you found Mercola. I have been a “fan” of his for sometime. Another excellent source of information regarding this health issue is a book by a Doctor (M.D.) Thomas Cowan, MD.
    “Human Heart, Cosmic Heart” will stretch your mind in ways you never thought! It’s only 150 pages, but it is so enlightening!
    He practices in San Francisco, CA: and he is the most “out of the box” thinker regarding this heath issue I’ve ever had the privilege of meeting. My daughter and I have much respect for him.

  5. Amanda says:

    I have type 1 diabetes and I’m going to try this diet. I already do not eat many carbs as it is. But when I do, they’re not good carbs! Anyway, I know eating this diet will lower my blood sugars and I’ll accomodate for that. I would like to know your thoughts on what would be a good food item to eat if my blood sugars do drop? I usually go straight for orange juice or fruit snacks, but am looking for a better option when needed, something that would go along with this diet…

    • I don’t know nearly as much about type 1 diabetes as I do about other immune disorders. What I do know is I have a terrible reaction to many fruits, especially oranges. I had the fewest problems with honey – didn’t matter what type.

    • PAULA says:

      Hi Amanda, Have you come across Richard Bernstein, MD’s books on low carb / glucose-testing regime / recipes for diabetes? He’s a Type 1 too. Very famous. Learned on himself. Very “counter” the mainstream.

      Dr, Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution: A Complete Guide to Achieving Normal Blood Sugars
      By: Richard K. Bernstein M.D.
      LITTLE, BROWN AND COMPANY / 2011 / HARDCOVER

      Publisher’s Description

      Originally published in 1997, DR. BERNSTEIN’S DIABETES SOLUTION is a unique resource that covers both adult- and childhood-onset diabetes, explains step-by-step how to normalize blood sugar levels and prevent or reverse complications, and offers detailed guidelines for establishing a treatment plan. Readers will find fifty gourmet recipes, in addition to a comprehensive discussion of diet, obesity, and new drugs to curb carbohydrate craving and overeating.

      Now in its fourth edition, the book presents up-to-the-minute information on insulin resistance, blood-testing devices, measuring blood sugar, new types of insulin, gastroparesis and other issues, as well as updated diet guidelines. DR. BERNSTEIN’S DIABETES SOLUTION is the one book every diabetic must own.

      • I agree Paula. There is also a facebook page called typeonegrit that has people that follow Dr. Bernstein’s advice. Its amazing when they post their blood glucose charts when following ADA diet advice ( huge spikes up and down ) vs their low steady blood glucose levels when following Dr. Bernstein’s low carb diet.

        • That is RD Dikeman. He is an MD with a son who has Type I. He threw out all the crap advise from the ADA, and raised him on a zero grain, zero starch, zero refined sugar diet, and emphasizes protein.

          His son is an incredibly healthy and strapping teenager, who probably injects less insulin that 99.9% of other Type 1 kids.

          If you suggest this dies to an endo, the first thing he/she will claim is that it stunts growth. Baloney.

  6. Meat eater says:

    An association is not a cause. The first rule of quoting research is to understand research. The problem with all dietary research is that it is usually cross sectional and therefore an association. The causal pathway is not established. For example, does low cholesterol become low because of a pre-existing illness like cancer, instead of the low cholesterol ‘causing’ cancer. That’s easy to establish by following people and monitoring their cholesterol. A very low cholesterol in an elderly person might indicate they have something going on, its not established that it is a cause. The J curve of cholesterol is established. Both very low and very high cholesterol are Associated with illness in one form or another. There is no evidence fruit and vegetables which are natural forage foods are detrimental to health. Consuming them means consuming all the vitamins and minerals and fibres and antioxidants. For example citrus has around 4000 bioactive compounds, none of which work without symbiosis. Therefore taking isolated ‘supplements’ can never replace natural food.

  7. Meli says:

    What about triglycerids? Is it bad to have them high or is it ok like cholesterol? I have had high cholesterol and triglycerids and wasnt feeling very well, the doctor told me it was my cholesterol but i have heard that its not that bad to have it high, so i think the problem might have been the triglycerids

  8. Jonathan says:

    Mercola is a quack for sure.

    Here he is claiming that led light bulbs are bad because they don’t put out infrared radiation. https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2016/10/23/near-infrared-led-lighting.aspx

    Anyone with even a basic understanding knows infrared is just a fancy term for radiant heat, which all objects warmer than room temperature give off. The contribution to infrared a light puts out is minimal, there are so many other sources of it.

    So I wouldn’t trust this guy on anything.

    Just because conventional medicine isn’t great, doesn’t me we should blindly trust alternative practitioners; they can be just as bad if not worse and spread lies.

    • Xavier Rodriguez says:

      I am not sure Mercola is a quack. Why? because life evolved with light that has always contained IR light, either the sun or fire. how long has life lived with light with no IR? well the initial light bulb was invented in 1879? and how long has life been around? even when I was growing up as a kid, and I am now 24, I had incandescent light bulbs which emit small amounts of IR. I hope you are right though. And that light does not matter. But so far my experience indicates the opposite :/

  9. JRando says:

    https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2017/12/26/influenza-homeopathic-treatment.aspx

    Seriously? Please don’t talk about Mercola and evidence in the same breath. Antivaxx, pseudomedicine and ‘big pharma’ conspiracist. Oh and homeopathy. I think this is a great article and has good sources, though the links definitely seem to conform to the widely held view that high HDL and lower LDL is the healthiest option.

    The links that you posted relating to LDL and increased mortality all had problems.
    1. This was a study on patients who had already suffered an acute MI. There are many different variables in these patients, especially relating to medications and statins given in hospital.
    2. Total cholesterol levels, not LDL.
    3. Total cholesterol levels, not LDL. Aaand the results showed the increase in mortality was non-cardiac. “The most frequent cause of non-cardiac death associated with low total cholesterol was cancer.” so this doesn’t go against the conventional wisdom relating to coronary health. Even if it was just about LDL. Which it isn’t.

    Again, I definitely agree that we need to revisit this in the healthcare industry! Just… pseudomedicine and real studies should be widely separated and Mercola quacks like a duck.

  10. Andreea says:

    I’ve been doing a zero-carb all meat diet. All of the articles I find online are telling me its an awful idea and it makes me nervous. I really appreciate a resource that tells me otherwise.

    Would you limit your daily egg intake? Esp if fresh from the farm?

  11. Sascha says:

    Almost every animal cell makes cholesterol. That is the whole animal kingdom, from the beginnig of life 3,5 billion years ago. All of them. Anyone who wants to tell me cholesterol is bad is a fucking moron.

  12. Owen Ward says:

    Great post Mikhaila. I’ve been learning this recently as well. I’ve stopped caring about Cholesterol and completely committed to Carnivore/Zero Carb. My body and mind tell me more than any study or article can and it’s telling me everything is running smoothly and in good order. Our fear driven society relies to heavily on reassurance and we lose our connection with our bodies. You are a prime example of reconnecting. I’ve heard and read you say you were only able to get back to a 7/10 recently. Any better now?

  13. Rose says:

    Are you familiar with dr Jack Kruse’s work about light and cold?

    Also, can you please advice on the most reliable type of IgG test?

    • Kenn Macdonald says:

      Denise Minger talks about eggs re: China Study https://deniseminger.com/the-china-study/
      I follow Jack Kruse, he makes a lot of sense, especially explaining how our biology evolved, and what we can do to match our present environment to an ancestral one. I have done cold baths, but not for as long or consistently as I would need to. I do use blue blocking glasses at night though.

  14. Li says:

    Congrats on the speaking gig, I hope you’ll start YouTubeing soon like your dad does. Your dad’s the first person I’ve ever followed on YouTube, and I’m hopeful that between the two of you, I can get the information to get my life sorted:) I’m on day three of your exclusion diet; my issues are fatigue, depression and ADHD-related symptoms. I’m wondering if you could please reply to this question pretty please:

    …because you seem to say that it’s best to keep taking medications during the first month of the exclusion diet, I’m taking my escitalopram 40mg and vyvanse 50mg – however, I’m also a former smoker so I’ve kept taking nicotine logenzes too – even though they contain sugar. I can’t chew nicotine gums because they make my jaw ache and my skin sag. So my question: do you think it’s okay I keep eating my nicotine logenzes at least for the first month of trying your diet (as it’s a medicine technically, to help stay away from the other 2999 types of toxins in cigarettes) or how much is there a risk of this sabotaging the whole exclusion diet month?

    Big love to you and your family, you’re the best family in the public eye ever!

  15. Fernanda says:

    The website Thincs.org is a great source of information for us, cholesterol skeptics. Thincs stands for The International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics.

    Thanks for you blog, Mikhaila, its great you make the effort to share with us..
    I follow your dad on youtube. He’s a genuine and corageous man❤️
    Not many like him around…

  16. Kathleen Byers says:

    Sad that the medical community continues to promote the cholesterol story, and NEED FOR STATINS.
    I wonder if it’s the same for the “need” for BP meds? Those meds cause other issues, like water retention/swelling, which I never had before going on them.

    • Marietta Pellicano says:

      Yes, to the BP meds “need” question. At least, that’s the experience my husband had. The Doctors had him on BP meds for 20 years as a professional driver, but when he retired, he went off of them and replaced them with more natural supplements. He now takes Michaels Blood Pressure Factors, and Red Yeast Rice. One Dr. argued that one of the ingredients in Red Yeast Rice was the same as in his prescribed Rx for BP. He “warned” my husband that that ingredient was better processed to a “higher standard” than in the supplements one can buy at the local health food stores. Nevertheless, my husband has been using these more natural supplements for four years now and his BP is within normal range every time he takes that measurement. He has no side negative effects either. So, for us, it has positively “Paid” to take a pro-active approach to our own health needs/issues. I have used this approach for myself with other issues as well. Never had a negative problem develop. Read, learn, research, and talk to others! It does give one a broader perspective! And it’s worth it!

  17. I’m 75. On statins since my fifties. Tried to explain to the professionals that if I was genetically programmed to die of heart disease I’d have no problem with it. The doctor told me she had her own parents on them. I was given strict instructions related to diet. All my parents, grandparents and great grandparents, being farmers, lived without the benefit of statins to a ripe old age, eating the best butter, milk, cream, beef, ham, bacon and eggs. Their sugar intake was probably quite low, as pastries, cakes, ice cream and sweets were not the order of the day. Now, at 75, I am alive but not what I would call kicking. Deep fatigue, muscle aches, joint problems, headaches. It is said to be osteoarthritis. I am subject to flare ups of gastritis, which is provoked by any number of things. It is not pleasant. I believe my journey into later old age will further deteriorate based on these problems. I have never thought that healthy fats caused high cholesterol, but sugary foodstuffs, which I have a great fondness for, but which I try to limit. . I do not drink alcohol and also totally avoid soda drinks due to the citric acid content, which provokes gastritis. To finish: my feeling is that had I refused to comply with the statins regime I may have had a somewhat shorter life; I don’t know for sure – but who wants a life prolonged, if it is bought at the cost of all manner of age related problems, which in my case, seems probable. A heart attack is not the worst way to go. Thank you, Mikhaila for your kind attention.

    • Kenn Macdonald says:

      Hi Geraldine
      Your symptoms sound like the effects of statins. I was on statins, but stopped taking them when I developed neuropathy, and I consequently read up on statins, and devided no way in h**l would I keep taking them. They damage the body. Plus I later read a meta-analysis that high cholesterol was protective of longevity after the age of 47-50. If you don’t want to stop taking statins (it is your life and your decision after all) then you might want to consider supplementing with Ubiquinol and Vitamin K2. Statins interfere with Ubiquinol which is needed by every cell in the body to produce energy(ATP) which is why it is called Ubiquinol, because it is ubiquitous(everywhere). You could go to the site of Dr Mercola (https://www.mercola.com/) and type in your query i.e. “statins” in the search at the top of the page to read some articles about statins. He also links to the original studies so you can read more if you like. All the best Geraldine.

  18. Michael says:

    Hi Mikhaila,
    thanks for answering my why-no-pork question.
    Hope you’re doing great, as well as baby and hubby! Now if you really can;t eat beef anymore, that’s really crazy… I’m at a loss for words on that 🙁

    I have a reading recommendation if you want to get a very different gist on diet:
    Read “Born To Run”! It’s not a completely immersive experience, but if you read attentively it answers some very deep questions, mostly indirectly:
    – What are the best running shoes (OK, that’s easy)
    – why “homo sapiens” is a misnomer (and no, not “homo ‘running'” instead)
    – in extension, why we have little body hair (your father recently mentioned something about possible stone age ‘coastal habitats’, i.e. less hair helps inside the water, but I believe that’s not it.)
    – what source of steady diet eventually allowed humans to have bigger brains
    – why herd animals (and schools of fish) try to look as identical as possible

    So I’m /mostly/ on your diet since March 1st, although luckily I don’t *have* to – I’m 53 and in as close to perfect health as one can be. But I was scraping on BMI of 25 and with your diet lost 4 pounds in the first week without ever feeling hungry 8-), and now 4 more over the last month.
    Especially helpful was your tip to eat small amounts of honey, if you get sweets cravings!

    I’ve now also become a Patreon supporter of yours, only $5 for now, as I’m on $200 for your farther since October (still waiting for that 45 min chat with him – your mom is informed.)

    All the best to you!
    Cheers from the San Francisco East Bay
    Michael

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