Feb 20 2008

I dropped my cholesterol 70 points in two weeks

This post is going to sound like an infomercial except this is 100% true and I’m not trying to sell you anything. 

About 8 months ago my doctor told me that I had high cholesterol (242 in total) and that it needed to come down or he wanted to put me on a statin (Lipitor, or something like that).  Apparently cholesterol runs in my family (my dad and sister both have high cholesterol) and despite eating pretty well and being in descent shape, mine was high too. 

I’m completely against the use of statins for someone like me (see this Business Week article for a good summary of why – I’ve done quite a bit of additional research online that supports this conclusion as well).  Overall, I’m skeptical of society’s current obsession with one’s cholesterol number.  That said, when a friend told me about a program that he used to cut his cholesterol quickly I thought I’d check it out.

Fast-forward a few months of procrastination ("I’ll start that thing next month!") and I finally signed up for BalancePoint.  The idea behind the program is to change your metabolism from burning carbs to burning lipids (fats).  To do this, you consume 65% of your calories in fat, 10%-15% from protein and the remaining 20%-25% in simple carbs.  No grains, no sugar, no dairy and at least during the first two weeks, no dietary sources of cholesterol.  Oh – and you have to log everything you eat, and restrict your calorie intake (in my case to between 1500 and 1800 calories a day).  In practice this means eating a huge amount of olive oil and a lot of egg white omelettes, salads and tofu stir fry. 

The first few days – in a word – sucked.  My body wasn’t used to burning fat and protein for energy and my head was in the clouds.  Plus, not eating any bread, pasta, rice or cereal was a huge change for me. Slowly, however, my body got used to my new diet and for the most part enjoyed what I was eating.  I quickly dropped about 7 pounds (not exactly what I had in mind, but 1800 calories a day just won’t cut it for me) but felt pretty energized (and had much more even energy throughout the day rather than the highs and lows of the typical diet).  Despite the taunting from friends and co-workers (other than Ryan who was on the program with me), I felt pretty good.

As part of the program I had my cholesterol taken on my first day and then again on my 14th (I’m on day 22 now, although after the 14 day intensive program I’ve slightly modified my diet to add in lean meats and fish and upped my calorie count a little bit in an effort to stop losing weight).  The results were fantastic.  My initial cholesterol dropped from 243 (up a point from my test at the doctor’s 8 months ago) to 175.  My detailed analysis showed that all of my levels that were flagged as high (7 in total) were back in the "normal" range. 

It’s definitely a commitment to keep this up, but I’m giving it a good go . . .