Health

 

Sarah Taylor

Sarah Taylor

Posted February 1, 2013

Published in Health

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Vegans with High Cholesterol

Read More: cholesterol, vegan

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My cholesterol has always been high - around 233 – even after 12 years on a vegan diet.  How can a 12-year vegan have such high cholesterol?  Genetics, of course. 

We love to use genetics as an excuse.  We blame so many things on genetics, yet most of us have never actually had a genetic test done to solidify our excuse!  So I did. I flew to Denver, and went to Dr. Ian Levenson who tested me for the Apolipoprotein E (often called “Apo-E”) genotype.  Sure enough, I tested positive for the ApoE 4 allele.  The ApoE 4 genotype, which 14% of the population has, puts me at a high risk of heart disease and early dementia, and I certainly don’t want to be getting coloring books for Christmas when I’m 50.

Having this genotype makes the body hyper-respond to fat.  Thus, my cholesterol is sky-high, even though I don’t eat any; my body takes the fat I have eaten and over-produces cholesterol.  While having this genotype puts me at a higher risk for heart disease and dementias, the good news is that I should respond very well to a very, very low-fat diet. 

Although I know fatty diets are bad – and in a vegan diet, most fat comes from oil – I have procrastinated going completely low-fat, only because it is soooo hard when I’m traveling!!  Being on the road every week makes it very hard to eat vegan with no oil.  But I certainly have no intention of taking cholesterol-lowering medications for the rest of my life, so I decided to suck it up and do it.  I’m only 3 weeks in, so I can’t claim long-term success yet, but today was a motivating day: My company offered a free health screening today, and (drum roll) the results after just three weeks of vegan-no-oil? 

Decrease in Total Cholesterol:  -67

Decrease in LDL (bad) Cholesterol:  -67

Decrease in Triglycerides:  -79

So, the moral of the story is that sometimes we have to make a commitment, and do what’s best for our health, even if it’s hard.  The payoff, although hard to imagine, could be life or death!


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4 Comments | Leave a comment

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I am so glad to have this information, I too have high cholesterol. We started on the vegan diet in March of this year and after 8 days, my husband had bloodwork done and his cholesterol had dropped 30 points. I had bloodwork done yesterday and my cholesterol is 250. I have lost 28 lbs. and was excited to find out what my level is. I am going to cut out oils completely and ask for another test after a month or so. My Mom who passed away 14 years ago had very high cholesterol 434 and was very tiny and ate next to nothing.

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I had been concerned with my cholesterol for many years. My doctor put me on statin drug to which I had a strange reaction, so I'm off. It's been one year since I have been vegan. I lost 20 pounds, and my cholesterol that used to be in the high 200s and at one point 300-something is down to lower 200s...but still in the 200s. I'll try your suggestion of going very very low fat vegan. If you have more suggestions, please share.
Thank you for your post!

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I am a vegan of 20 years, and a scientist. I had a different experience. I was eating a low fat diet, but my cholesterol was high in a blood test. My Dr. suggested it was genetic, but high cholesterol does not run in my family. I haven't had the genetic test...

In response I actually INCREASED my fat intake and my cholesterol went down!!! I ate good fats, such as olive oil, grapeseed oil, avocados, nuts flax, hemp and the like. My cholesterol quickly declined and went to a safe, if not optimum level!!!!

This is because the body needs fat! Many vitamins and minerals are fat soluble and will only be absorbed properly with fats. If the body doesn't get enough fat for regular metabolic and physiological processes, the body will make its own.

What is the one fat that animals including humans make? Cholesterol!!! So, I found I wasn't eating enough fat, and my body made its own fat, making my cholesterol go up. After increasing my fat intake not only did my cholesterol go down, but I also lost weight - my body seemed to also be storing fat because I wasn't getting enough.

Anyway, not everyone is the same I guess, but very low to no fat diets can be dangerous - not just in terms of cholesterol, but in terms of nutrient absorption etc. In addition, remember those omegas that our brains (and arteries) like so much - they are fats! They are in walnuts, and flax and hemp and other high fat foods. Don't avoid nuts and healthy oils. They also help balance proteins and complete the amino acids from things like grains.

I guess, see what works for you...

user-pic

I am a vegan of 20 years, and a scientist. I had a different experience. I was eating a low fat diet, but my cholesterol was high in a blood test. My Dr. suggested it was genetic, but high cholesterol does not run in my family. I haven't had the genetic test...

In response I actually INCREASED my fat intake and my cholesterol went down!!! I ate good fats, such as olive oil, grapeseed oil, avocados, nuts flax, hemp and the like. My cholesterol quickly declined and went to a safe, if not optimum level!!!!

This is because the body needs fat! Many vitamins and minerals are fat soluble and will only be absorbed properly with fats. If the body doesn't get enough fat for regular metabolic and physiological processes, the body will make its own.

What is the one fat that animals including humans make? Cholesterol!!! So, I found I wasn't eating enough fat, and my body made its own fat, making my cholesterol go up. After increasing my fat intake not only did my cholesterol go down, but I also lost weight - my body seemed to also be storing fat because I wasn't getting enough.

Anyway, not everyone is the same I guess, but very low to no fat diets can be dangerous - not just in terms of cholesterol, but in terms of nutrient absorption etc. In addition, remember those omegas that our brains (and arteries) like so much - they are fats! They are in walnuts, and flax and hemp and other high fat foods. Don't avoid nuts and healthy oils. They also help balance proteins and complete the amino acids from things like grains.

I guess, see what works for you...

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