Chris Masterjohn coming to talk about cholesterol

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Chris Masterjohn from The Daily Lipid is going to join us on the podcast to summarize a new paradigm of understanding cholesterol and it’s role in health and disease. As you know, there’s perhaps no issue in health & nutrition that is more characterized by controversy, propaganda and misinformation.

We’ll be taking a 30,000 foot view of “an evolutionary perspective of cholesterol in the 21st century”. By that I mean summarizing what we know about cholesterol and its relationship to heart disease from the perspective of the most reliable modern evidence and anthropological evidence.

We’ll see how both conventional doctors and researchers, who claim that cholesterol is the cause of heart disease, and cholesterol skeptics, who claim that cholesterol numbers are completely irrelevant, are both wrong.

The episode will be recorded next Friday the 20th, but due to scheduling issues won’t air until June 21st. We probably won’t have much time for questions, but if you have a burning one on this topic, leave it here before Thursday, May 19th and we’ll try to get to it.

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  1. TJ says

    Chris & Chris – Thanks for talking about this subject. I turned 40, got an uncomfortable physical, was told my cholesterol is 321, and here’s your statin. I don’t like taking asprin, so it seemed a stretch that I was going to settle in a routine of popping a pill every day. After talking to everyone I could, getting a VAP, and finally finding an ND that would listen, I feel like I have opened Pandora’s box. After a serious blood letting, we learned that my thyroid was low, no protein absorption, zinc in the basement, glucose high, and my liver was sluggish. Ironically my inflamatioin was low.

    So help me understand what is at work here? Chicken or the egg? Is my digestion bad so the brain says slow the metabolism to the thyroid and that means we need more cholesterol? OR the thyroid is taking a beating so it falls offs and slows protein absorption in the gut?
    I know this chain is linked together, but it is hard to figure out who is calling the shots and more importantly how to address the problems to get this thing turned around.

    If you want the data I am happy to provide. Thanks for considering my question. Keep up the great work.
    All the best,
    TJ

  2. Steven S says

    One question that I hear fairly often is, “does there exist a (common) genetic variation that alters cholesterol metabolism so much that dietary cholesterol becomes a major factor in blood levels?”

  3. Claudia Stubstad says

    I manage my cholesterol numbers with standardized Red Yeast Rice. My liver & kidney functions are as good as before I went on, normal. The statin drugs gave me sore hips & I limped when I walked, it has returned….any suggestions? I also take CoQ10 200mg, my husband on a cholesterol Rx does not, should he?

  4. Hayat Donna Bain says

    @Claudia: Your husband should definitely take the CoQ10, as should anyone on a statin drug, as the statins deplete CoQ10.

  5. John Anderson says

    Hi Chris,
    I’d love it if you guys covered the topic of cholestrol and its’ relationship to testosterone and to cortisol. As I understand it, cortisol(that most famous of stress biomarkers) “steals” cholestrol away from testosterone production. Aside from thinking relaxing and/or virile thoughts, do you think that there are ways to maximize tesosterone production through increased dietary consumption of cholesterol?
    Brain/Gut podcast was above and beyond excellent.
    Thank you,
    John

    • Chris Kresser says

      John: dietary cholesterol has little impact on blood cholesterol, so I don’t think this will work well. Increasing saturated fat may, in some cases, raise cholesterol. Improving liver function is another possibility, as is supporting adrenal health with stress management and botanicals/nutrients known to regulate the HPA axis.

      • gregory barton says

        Rising cholesterol levels, after increasing one’s saturated fat intake, is the lynchpin of the current fat debate. If you increase saturated fat in your diet (as you must do with a low-carb diet), your doctor will tell you, “see, I told you, saturated fat will increase your LDL. Better go back to a ‘balanced’ diet.”

        Low carb proponents assure you that, if you decrease carbohydrates sufficiently, any increase in cholesterol will be temporary (and harmless). But how long is temporary? And why does this temporary increase occur? What threshold is reached in the body before the increasing cholesterol trend reverses?

        It would be very helpful to those starting a carb-restricted diet if Chris Masterjohn addressed these issues.

  6. Aravind says

    Hello Chris^2,

    I’ve been on a reduced carb/no toxin (gluten, fructose, vegetable oils) diet. In the process my HDL has gone up (40 to 48 – I eat 6 whole eggs per day, yum!), LDL flat (138 to 137) and Triglycerides up (115 to 134). Specific to triglycerides, I know Chris M has posted on the transient increase in blood lipids as one is reversing a fatty liver condition. How long would you expect this transition to take? My understanding is triglyceride levels should be inversely related to carbohydrate intake, so I assume I should eventually see the number go down.

    Thanks and regards,
    Aravind

    • gregory barton says

      Aravind,
      I have the same triglyceride issue. A few weeks ago I started 30g per day carbs. On starting the diet, fasting blood sugar was a pre-diabetic 109, Trig 110. Two weeks later FBS was down to 83 but Trig up to 146. I had previously found an inverse relationship between carbs and triglycerides.

      Perhaps Chris Masterjohn could throw light on this anomoly.

  7. Hooray for butter says

    Hello Chris,
    Any chance of asking Chris Masterjohn his thoughts on living and thriving with Familial hypercholesterolemia? Is there an alternative treatment besides statins? Is treatment necessary if you maintain a strict diet, fitness and reduce stress? Is the VLDL number and percentages more important. I currently have 415 LDL, 85 HDL, feel great and am getting stronger every month in my late 40′s. My VAP tests show a very low count on VLDL with 95% large and fluffy LDL. As per our conversations over the past couple months there don’t seem to be any easy answers. Thank you.

    • Lee says

      Hi,
      Your #s and mine are very similar.( high “good”, low tryglicerides, high “bad”but large and fluffy, so not a risk for CHD.
      I have what is diagnosed as a “metabolic abnormality”, thyroid nodules and enlarged gland.
      conventional doc. wants to remove gland and prescribe Synthoid for life.
      I have since changed to a WAP way of eating the last 10 years ( lots of healthy saturated fat, sm amount of protein, and moderate intake of low suger carbs.
      The nodules have shrunk and the gland is no longer increasing in size, after 25 years.
      I feel great, lots of energy and am 68 years old.
      Mine is what is diagnosed as “autonomous”, meaning there is no comunication between Thyroid gland and pituitary. (thermostat and furnace) This seems functional, to me so managing it is, maybe preferable to something drastic.
      Just a thought, although I am always looking for a solution/ cure.

      • Chris Kresser says

        There are many reason why total and LDL cholesterol may be elevated with normal HDL and TG. Hypothyroidism is one of them, which sounds like the cause in your case. But there’s also a genetic pattern called familial hypercholesterolemia where the LDL receptor doesn’t function well. Typically that doesn’t respond to dietary changes. The goal in that case is to reduce the chances of oxidative damage as much as possible, because it’s oxidized LDL that is responsible for the increased risk of CHD seen with high TC/LDL.

  8. Dr.Shabnam Das Kar says

    Very low cholesterol levels (<150 mg,correct me if i am wrong) are associated with higher mortality because cholesterol is the first molecule in steroid hormone synthesis.How can cholesterol levels be raised?

    • Chris Kresser says

      By determining what the cause of low cholesterol is in the first place. Could be impaired liver function, manganese deficiency or dietary in nature. There are other causes, but those are the most common IMO.

    • Paul says

      To clarify, my own hypothyroidism seemed to be worsened by carb restriction and I have needed to increase thyroid supplementation. Is this common? If it is and if, as I believe, thyroid problems can cause heart disease, then carb restriction may be harmful to those with undiagnosed or inadequately treated thyroid problems. Does CM agree?

      • Chris Kresser says

        Yes, I’ve seen carb restriction make people with thyroid issues worse. I don’t really recommend carb restriction as a general rule, just the type of carbs.

  9. Mark Gerrards says

    Hi Chris,
    Love what you guys do and the information you provide; please keep it up – you’re making a difference! :-)
    My father was recently told that his cholesterol was high, and as a result he was prescribed STATINS. Having read around STATINS, their possible negative side-effects, and the doubt that many ‘experts’ cast over their benefits – I’d love to hear your thoughts on them. My father has also heard that once you are taking STATINS it can be dangerous to stop taking them – what do you think?
    Sorry, i don’t have the details of my father’s blood/cholesterol results.
    Thanks again for all the work you do, and all the very best.
    Mark

  10. Tyler says

    What do you think about the argument that high palmitic acid consumption in normal healthy people down-regulates the LDL receptor and therefore results in a condition similar to familial hypercholesterolemia (which is obviously associated with a higher risk of CVD death)?

    • Chris Kresser says

      I don’t agree with it. Not that simple. Otherwise everyone with high palmitic acid consumption would have high LDL, and that’s simply not true.

  11. Heidi says

    Hi Chris,

    My eye doctor told me I have cholesterol deposits in my eyes…named it arcus senilus. She wants me to see my doctor to get my cholesterol checked since, at 46, I’m just on the ‘young side’ to have this condition. I’m a bit worried/concerned and not at all sure how to approach this. I hope you can comment about this condition, and maybe suggest what tests would be beneficial.

    I’m Canadian by the way so I can ask for specific test, but unless my doctor agrees to go along with me, I may not be able to get them.

  12. Kristie says

    Love your blog. I just read your series on GERD/reflux from 2010 and thought it was very interesting.

    I have what I think is a somewhat unusual cholesterol situation, or so I am assuming based upon the fact that I can’t find guidance on this anywhere. I’ve been low carb for years and got a VAP last year. I had a “high” LDL number (185) but a good HDL number (63), and excellent tri (51) and CRP (0.7) numbers. Nevertheless, I was Pattern B. Everything I’ve read says that good HDL + low TG means Pattern A/large fluffy. My doctor had no explanation and Dr. Google hasn’t offered so much as a hint. Any thoughts?

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