Dangerously Low Cholesterol on a Vegan Diet? - VeggieBoards
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#1 Old 08-11-2013, 02:00 PM
 
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Hello everyone, I have a question that has been nagging me for years and would love to have some answers/opinions on it. smiley.gif

I've experimented with lacto-ovo veg, pescatarianism and flexitarianism at different times for a period of about 3 years now. I am currently ovo veg, and only eat eggs to actually get *more* cholesterol. Yes, you read that right, more.

Let me explain, When I was first trying out lacto ovo veg, I chose not to eat a lot of egg or dairy products. I still ate them, but only once in a blue moon. I must have been doing something wrong because I became emaciated, and would feel really really dizzy walking around to my classes at university, and I was absolutely starving 24/7. I went to the doc and they took a blood test and found out that all my cholesterol, good and bad, we're dangerously low. My doc ordered me to eat some eggs, so I did for a week, took another blood test, and then I was fine. I stayed lacto ovo veg for probably about another six months and then tried pesco, flexi, etc and now I've been ovo veg for about three or four months now I wanna say. I don't have any problems staying satiated and I'm at a good weight and feel pretty strong. My blood tests say all my levels of various nutrients are perfect. I eat one egg two-four times a week to keep my cholesterol up, and for the rest I am strictly vegan.

My dilemma is this: I would love to try being a "full time" vegan, and I am also very curious about raw veganism as well. I am just afraid the same thing will happen to me again. I know a lot more now about how to incorporate different kinds of whole foods and not just live off of veggie pizza and refined pasta, so I am wondering if I can pull it off now that I eat better. When I was an "unintentional" vegan as described above, I remember eating a couscous salad a lot that had almonds in it...would I need to eat more nuts to get my cholesterol and satieity needs satisfied?

In short, how to I get enough fat and cholesterol in my diet and how do I stay satiated if I were to try full veganism and/or raw veganism?

I want to do what is best for me personally, and I do follow by the rule "if it ain't broke don't fix it" but I would really love to try a 100% plant based diet if I can...okay maybe only to get vegan super powers like in Scott pilgrim vs the world. tongue3.gif

Thank you for your kind advice in advance. smiley.gif

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#2 Old 08-11-2013, 02:17 PM
 
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I don't believe I'm mistaken but cholesterol is only found in animal products so, unless you were to keep eating eggs, there is no food you could eat to keep up your cholesterol. Now your liver produces cholesterol, about the same amount that are found in a dozen eggs, daily.

Years ago, when I was an omni, I too had low cholesterol but was also suffering from chronic hepatitis C which, of course, is an infection of the liver. Has your doctor tested you for HepC? And are your liver enzymes at good levels? I'm wondering if your doctor doesn't need to look at this a little more closely.

As far as staying satiated, my guess is that you probably weren't taking in enough calories. Or at least enough carbohydrates. You should take in lots of fruits, especially if you're feeling hungry or weak. Beyond that, I would recommend that you hook up with a nutritionist to help analyze your eating patterns and make suggestions where you could improve within the guidelines of a vegan or raw vegan diet.

Good luck!
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#3 Old 08-11-2013, 02:42 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Rinchen View Post

I don't believe I'm mistaken but cholesterol is only found in animal products so, unless you were to keep eating eggs, there is no food you could eat to keep up your cholesterol. Now your liver produces cholesterol, about the same amount that are found in a dozen eggs, daily.

Years ago, when I was an omni, I too had low cholesterol but was also suffering from chronic hepatitis C which, of course, is an infection of the liver. Has your doctor tested you for HepC? And are your liver enzymes at good levels? I'm wondering if your doctor doesn't need to look at this a little more closely.

As far as staying satiated, my guess is that you probably weren't taking in enough calories. Or at least enough carbohydrates. You should take in lots of fruits, especially if you're feeling hungry or weak. Beyond that, I would recommend that you hook up with a nutritionist to help analyze your eating patterns and make suggestions where you could improve within the guidelines of a vegan or raw vegan diet.

Good luck!

Hi! Thank you very much for the advice. I'll have to look into hep C stuff. You know, on a similar note, I've had a mysterious side pain near my liver for over a year now, not sure if that is related. (everyone I know says kidney stone but who knows) I'll definitely talk to my doc about concerns for my liver. Thanks again.

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#4 Old 08-11-2013, 02:42 PM
 
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I don't believe I'm mistaken but cholesterol is only found in animal products so, unless you were to keep eating eggs, there is no food you could eat to keep up your cholesterol.

 

That doesn't seem to be true - other foods may have an effect on cholesterol, even if they don't contain it.

 

Unfiltered coffee (French press or percolated) can raise cholesterol levels -

http://www.nbcnews.com/id/6242467/ns/health-heart_health/t/coffee-cholesterol/#.Ugf1gHanapg

 

There may be other veg foods or herbs which can help raise cholesterol too, but I haven't researched it.  


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#5 Old 08-11-2013, 02:46 PM
 
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Here are some more plant based foods that may help raise cholesterol:

http://healing.answers.com/herbs/best-herbs-to-increase-hdl-levels

 

That's a quick search (I need to get off the computer in a sec), and not the best source, but I want to encourage you to look for alternatives other than eggs, because they probably exist.


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#6 Old 08-11-2013, 03:01 PM
 
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That does seems to be true. According to WebMD there are a number of foods that can effect cholesterol levels.

I think I would still counsel you to consult with a dietician to help plan what foods that would have a positive effect on your overall cholesterol.
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#7 Old 08-11-2013, 03:08 PM
 
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A dietician may help, but if you can't find a vegan-friendly one who knows about cholesterol and plant foods, you might be better off doing your own research, trying out different things, and then getting it checked again at the doctor's office.  I've often found the most success doing my own research, because professionals often have a narrow range and may not know how to treat my specific problem well.  


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#8 Old 08-11-2013, 03:22 PM
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I have never ever heard of such a thing as too low of cholesterol from eating a plant based diet. As I understand it, your body makes its own cholesterol - you should not need cholesterol from animal sources ever.


As far as recipes and getting enough fats, I have been a mostly-raw-100%-vegan for over half my life now, and it is very easy.

Avocados, nut butters, nuts themselves, are all great sources of healthy fats. This board has a recipe section that may do you well as well.

Good luck!

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#9 Old 08-11-2013, 05:39 PM
 
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Thanks for all the info, everyone! I am especially intrigued by the comment about herbs. I never thought they could effect cholesterol but I am not surprised...plants are so amazing!

I think I will do more research and experiment, and go to the doc to talk about my liver/possibly finding a good nutritionist. Though I think with my insurance I actually have I have a "problem" to see one (as in have diabetes) but nonetheless I will figure something out.

River-I feel a little naive in asking this since you mentioned avocados and nuts (both of which I love), but does fat equal cholesterol or are they two different things? Does fat turn into cholesterol in the body? I get so confused, haha. I eat a lot of healthy fats (nuts, Nut butters, dark chocolate on occasion, avocados, etc) already but I am wondering if I need to do something else for the cholesterol issue. Also, congrats on being raw vegan for so long! I really admire that!

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#10 Old 08-11-2013, 05:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Brain Floss View Post

River-I feel a little naive in asking this since you mentioned avocados and nuts (both of which I love), but does fat equal cholesterol or are they two different things? Does fat turn into cholesterol in the body? I get so confused, haha. I eat a lot of healthy fats (nuts, Nut butters, dark chocolate on occasion, avocados, etc) already but I am wondering if I need to do something else for the cholesterol issue. Also, congrats on being raw vegan for so long! I really admire that!

Thats a totally valid question! Fat and cholesterol get lumped together.

So there are many different fats, and cholesterol is in the class of lipids, but it can only be generated in the liver of animals, and a very minscule number of bacteria. Ita necessary forcell function.

Fats like what humans think of when they hear the word fats are either "good" or "bad". "Good" fats are those found naturally in plants, fruits, nuts, olive and I believe coconut oil. They are food for the brain and body providing energy and, again, proper cell function. "Bad fats" like transfats and saturated fats are the ones found in meat products and a lot of junk food.

I'm typing on my phone so that's a very very ahort answer, but a bit of googling should offer a lot.

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#11 Old 08-11-2013, 06:28 PM
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Hi Brian, smiley.gif
When you had your cholesterol levels checked when you felt weak, and they told you the levels were "dangerously low", how was your general health? BMI normal? Iron levels wnl? Usually *high* cholesterol would cause symptoms of weakness and fatigue, not low.

There have been studies showing that elderly people taking statin cholestrtol lowering meds who have low cholesterol levels generally get neurological symptoms such as short- term memory loss.

When giving up dairy and eggs, many new vegans replace them with more low-calorie, fiber-rich foods. They then feel weak and tired due to lack of calories or lack of fat in the diet, especially if they are young, active, and/or have a low bmi.

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#12 Old 08-11-2013, 06:46 PM
 
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hi.gif

 

I think you should get a second opinion.

Was this the first time having it checked? Did you start the conversation with your diet? Unfortunately that could sway the Dr.s opinion and keep from thinking about other things.

The fact that you were starving and sounding like not eating a proper diet could've been enough.

What were your levels? I've heard of people having totals as low as 130, which is fine.

I wouldn't mention your diet to the next doc, just explain the symptoms and the diagnosis of low cholesterol.

 

You may be interested in this site, Dr. Gregor is well documented:

http://nutritionfacts.org/video/can-cholesterol-be-too-low/

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#13 Old 08-11-2013, 08:04 PM
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I'm also quite curious what the total cholesterol level result was. Many western doctors simply never see cholesterol below 170 now but people can be perfectly healthy with a cholesterol concentration of 90!

Hypocholesterolemia is the fancy word for cholesterol deficiency, and in the medical books it says that the condition can not be diagnosed based only on a cholesterol blood test. No value is too little unless there are other symptoms pointing toward a disease or injury that would cause low cholesterol as one of the symptoms. In short, medical science has never found someone sick from 'too little cholesterol'

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Originally Posted by River View Post

As I understand it, your body makes its own cholesterol - you should not need cholesterol from animal sources ever.

The human body makes all the cholesterol it needs unless there is a disease state preventing it (like liver disease, leukemia, hypothyroidism, etc.)

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Originally Posted by Brain Floss View Post

Does fat turn into cholesterol in the body?

Good question. Cholesterol is made from anything whatsoever that has any calorie value, its pieced together from acetyl-CoA, the end product of metabolizing any food that provides energy- even pure white sugar :)

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Originally Posted by LedBoots View Post

When giving up dairy and eggs, many new vegans replace them with more low-calorie, fiber-rich foods. They then feel weak and tired due to lack of calories

My thought too, when I first made the switch I got a bit weak and tired too- I just didnt realize the full difference in calorie density between my old food and new. It seems to happen to lots of people.

 

Definitely get the pain in your side checked out. In the mean time calculate just how many calories you get in the day.

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#14 Old 08-12-2013, 09:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Brain Floss View Post

.

Let me explain, When I was first trying out lacto ovo veg, I chose not to eat a lot of egg or dairy products. I still ate them, but only once in a blue moon. I must have been doing something wrong because I became emaciated, and would feel really really dizzy walking around to my classes at university, and I was absolutely starving 24/7.

My dilemma is this: I would love to try being a "full time" vegan, and I am also very curious about raw veganism as well. I am just afraid the same thing will happen to me again. I know a lot more now about how to incorporate different kinds of whole foods and not just live off of veggie pizza and refined pasta, so I am wondering if I can pull it off now that I eat better. When I was an "unintentional" vegan as described above, I remember eating a couscous salad a lot that had almonds in it...would I need to eat more nuts to get my cholesterol and satieity needs satisfied?

In short, how to I get enough fat and cholesterol in my diet and how do I stay satiated if I were to try full veganism and/or raw veganism?
smiley.gif

Ok, you say you were light headed, dizzy, starving and skinny. This all indicates you were not eating enough and basically starving yourself. When the body is being starved the organs do not function at their fullest, it seems to make sense that your low cholesterol was simply the result of not eating enough calories everyday.

To feel satiated eat more food. Potatoes are great, they have high satiety level and are full of nutrients as well as provide some protein. Beans regularly. And fats from nuts,nut butters, coconut oil, and avocado.
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#15 Old 08-13-2013, 07:51 PM
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I'm also quite curious what the total cholesterol level result was. Many western doctors simply never see cholesterol below 170 now but people can be perfectly healthy with a cholesterol concentration of 90!
Whether someone can be healthy with a cholesterol level of 90 is speculative, the levels you seen in more "natural" populations of people who are eating few animal foods is usually between 120~140.

I'm surprised that a doctor would prescribe eggs and not run tests for someone with "dangerously low cholesterol", the body should be able to produce sufficient cholesterol without any dietary source.
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#16 Old 08-13-2013, 08:09 PM
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Fats like what humans think of when they hear the word fats are either "good" or "bad". "Good" fats are those found naturally in plants, fruits, nuts, olive and I believe coconut oil. They are food for the brain and body providing energy and, again, proper cell function. "Bad fats" like transfats and saturated fats are the ones found in meat products and a lot of junk food.
Saturated fats can be found in numerous plant foods as well, its not limited to meat and junk food. Coconut oil is almost entirely saturated fat. Fats don't provide much food for the brain, the brain runs on glucose and will only use fats for energy when glucose has been exhausted. Though some brain cells can't utilize fats at all. The brain is made of fats though, for example its rich in DHA but vegan foods don't contain DHA.

In any case, people can get by with very little fat and one only needs to worry about the essential fatty acids. Vegans get plenty, often way too much, omega-6 so for vegans its really about getting enough omega-3 and making sure their omega-6/omega-3 ratio isn't ridiculous...ideally around 4/1 but no more than 6/1 or so.

Eating a lot of fats, for vegans, somewhat ironically can lead to deficiencies in fats.
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#17 Old 11-16-2013, 11:17 PM
 
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Thank you for all the responses, everyone. I must apologize for how late my reply is!!! This semester was a little hard for me in college/life, but it is easing up a bit.

 

I love all these answers. It is good to know now that the body makes its own cholesterol from anything it eats. I've thought about it more and I think I've come to the conclusion that I just wasn't eating enough. It's started happening to me on a lesser scale again for the past couple months. I am pretty sure it has to do with school because when I am on my school breaks I am fine. I'm more stressed out, a lot less likely to eat enough due to stress/lack of time, or eat quality foods (I remember I pretty much lived off of enriched pasta last semester...that was bad) for that matter. I can see now I've just been going through a learning process of what my body needs specifically for its metabolism, etc. And yes, I've learned to just double the food I think I need on my plate over the past couple months haha. I get by on hardly any eggs anymore, I'm working on cutting them out, and will focus on it even more come winter break.

 

I tried finding my test results from that one blood test, but I must have thrown it away because I can't find it. It would have been interesting. I just remember the number on the left (which were my levels) were much, much lower than the one of the right ("normal" levels).

 

Thanks again guys, I really appreciate the help and great answers. You're awesome!


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