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From: john l (
Subject:         Help! I think my cholesterol is too low!
Date: March 6, 2008 at 3:54 pm PST

So I'm vegan and my 'cholesterol problem' is in the opposite direction of most americans. As a result I'm having a really hard time finding any information about how to correct it.

Here are the details: So a few weeks ago, in desperation, I went to a naturopath to try and figure out what was going on with me. I'd been experiencing severe anxiety and depression as well as almost total lack of motivation or initiative. While at the naturopath's I got a comprehensive metabolic blood test done. When it came back the number that jumped out at my naturopath was that my cholesterol level was 123 mg/dL. The other number that was outside of the normal range was my triglycerides: 178 mg/dL.

So I know that my cholesterol level is great for my risk of heart disease but what I didn't realize is that having too little cholesterol is correlated with anxiety and depression -- and even violence and suicide. According to my NP this relationship between cholesterol and mood is likely because cholesterol is a precursor for hormones like cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline which, among other things, are necessary for a healthy stress response.

Now I recognize that most cholesterol, even for meat eaters, is produced in one's liver. For a typical american only 15% comes from eating cholesterol directly; of course for vegans all cholesterol must be produced internally. So my naturopath wants me to consume fish oil. I'm willing to do this if I absolutely have to but I'd rather figure out a way to address this while remaining vegan.

So far my strategy has been to increase my intake of saturated fat, essential nutrients and calories in general. So I'm eating a lot of coconut oil, avocado and nuts. I'm also taking a good multivitamin and I'm drinking some gotu kola tea every day. (According to the Prescription for Nutritional Healing gotu kola is contraindicated if one has high cholesterol.) I'm also taking spirulina and eating walnuts on my NP's advice.

This advice is somewhat counterintuitive because walnuts, spirulina and avocado are all supposed to lower one's cholesterol! My NP claims that this is really only true if you have high cholesterol and that these things will actually promote homeostasis. Is this one of those counterintuitive truths that people love? Or is it bullsh*t? I don't really know.

So today I just did another, at home, cholesterol test. This test is supposed to be 97% accurate. Well it came back literally off the charts. The test comes with a little key to translate one's score (0-50) on the device to one's cholesterol level (120-400) in reality. Because my score was below where the key starts I called the company to help me determine where I was at. The best we could come up with was that my cholesterol today was at or below 100 mg/dL!

Any thoughts? Thanks so much for your help.

John L

P.S. There have been several studies that demonstrate a link between low cholesterol and depression. (plus violent death, i.e. suicide or 'accidents') Here is a link to a summary of one that found a 4 to 7 fold increase in severe depression with middle aged men who had cholesterol of 175 mg/dL or below! :

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