I'm still not sure why I am eating vegan... I've lost weight, but cholesterol has not improved... Thoughts requested... - VeggieBoards
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#1 Old 09-01-2012, 06:18 AM
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I started my vegan diet 15 weeks ago, following the guidelines of Dean Ornish's "heart disease reversal" program, which is basically vegan + no added oils + no nuts or seeds.
 
So while I'm happy I'm not contributing to the misery of animals (and I feel less guilty around my pet Java Sparrow when I'm not eating chicken) my main interest in starting this program was for health reasons.
 
For the most part I can't can't complain. I can't say there are any animal products I miss. And I probably ate enough fried foods for 10 lifetimes already. Basically the way I'm eating now feels more "refreshing." 
 
Over the last 15 weeks I've also lost 19.8 kg (43.6 lb) (very very good!) and my blood sugar, which was high, returned to normal. My blood pressure was never high.
 
So it doesn't sound like much to complain about, right?
 
The problem is that my cholesterol didn't improve after all this time on vegan eating and my doctor recently started me on a statin. So now I'll never know if vegan eating helps with cholesterol over a longer term or if any future improvements are just due to the statin. Before starting on the statin, my LDL creeped up from 136 to 150, and my HDL went down.
 
So I am not quite sure why I am doing vegan, except that it makes it easy to control calories and lose weight. I suppose that's a good enough reason. But....
 
Because of this I wonder why I'm being fanatically vegan about some things. For example, prepared miso soup packages have a bit of fish powder in the dashi. And a serving is only 31 calories. Yet I don't have miso soup because of the fish powder.
 
Similarly, almost all brands of non-oil dressing have something in them like chicken or pork extract, which adds a negligible amount of any nutrient to the product. I suspect it doesn't change the taste either. I don't know why chicken extract is needed for something like non-oil Italian dressing. But I've been avoiding those dressings as well.
 
Is it just a slippery slope to use one item containing minor amounts of animal products? Health wise is there really a compelling reason to care about trivial amounts of animal products like that in extremely low calorie essentially fat-free foods?
 
I would be interested in hearing peoples' thoughts on this.
 
Thanks,
 
doug
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#2 Old 09-01-2012, 07:10 AM
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That raises a good point, re: since you aren't doing this for the [non-human] animals, why not buy the miso soup?  My suggestion, however, would be to make your own dressings and miso soup.  Like, what's the point of this "no oil, no nuts and seeds" thing if you're buying everything from a jar?  You can make your own soups at home!!  I know you had another thread before, I forget if you have time constraints?

 

 

No added oil dressing - here's a carrot ginger one with 20 calories per serving

http://caloriecount.about.com/salad-carrot-ginger-dressing-no-recipe-r22856

 

(you can add apples or dates to make it sweeter if you want - and to be honest, i'd not use vinegar and put some lemon in)

 

 

Miso soups:

http://vegetarian.about.com/od/soupssalads/r/MisoSoup.htm

 

http://www.madejustright.com/post/vegan-miso-soup-recipe

 

(leave out oil)

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#3 Old 09-01-2012, 08:01 AM
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It is misleading to bill any diet as "heart disease reversal." The science just isn't there to back it up. From what we know, a heart healthy diet is rich in veggies, fruits, legumes, grains, nuts, and plant oils (rather than trans fats or animal fats). I know some claim a very low fat diet is the way to go, but at this point the jury is still out. More likely than not, the lack of healthy fats is why your HDL went down. Don't discount the importance of exercise either--exercise raises your HDL. Here is a good source for info on heart healthy lifestyle changes: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/GettingHealthy_UCM_001078_SubHomePage.jsp

Also here is some info from Mayo clinic on HDL cholesterol: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hdl-cholesterol/CL00030/NSECTIONGROUP=2

The current thinking is that HDL is not important to heart health in and of itself, but rather is an indicator of heart healthy factors (genetics, diet, exercise).

However, cholesterol has a very strong genetic component. Statins help with that part and decrease the risk of worsening heart disease, regardless of what your cholesterol numbers are. Also, smoking is a huge risk for heart disease, regardless of your cholesterol--if you do smoke, quitting is the single most important thing you can do for your heart.

Although I do believe a vegan diet is healthy and may prevent heart disease to some degree, the real reason I avoid meat, dairy and eggs is for the suffering and death of the animals. Another issue to consider is the trauma experienced by the farm/factory workers who work with food animals.

Regarding some of the products you mentioned, I don't think I have ever seen meat extracts in salad dressing. Regardless, a quick dressing of oil and vinegar or lemon juice is really easy, or just vinegar if you want lower fat. As far as miso soup, it is easy to make from scratch from miso paste. Let me know if you would like a recipe.
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#4 Old 09-01-2012, 10:29 AM
 
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I know how you feel, I became a vegan 2 months ago to see about the health effects, lowering my cholesterol and my rosacea. I had my blood work done after 30 days and it went down only about 5%, I am waiting for 3 full months before I have another blood work done, and the rosacea is still here. Although I don't like what happens to the animals this was not the primary reason I started to be Vegan. What I will tell you is mentally I feel great about what I am doing for my body because research definitely shows that animal and dairy is not good for you. I think if you choose to just add fish back in, like the miso soup, it might be a slippery slope but that is the path I also believe I might do in 6 months, but til then that is why I joined this board to see how others like me are feeling.

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#5 Old 09-01-2012, 12:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by douglerner View Post

So I am not quite sure why I am doing vegan, except that it makes it easy to control calories and lose weight. I suppose that's a good enough reason. But....
 
Because of this I wonder why I'm being fanatically vegan about some things. For example, prepared miso soup packages have a bit of fish powder in the dashi. And a serving is only 31 calories. Yet I don't have miso soup because of the fish powder.
 
Similarly, almost all brands of non-oil dressing have something in them like chicken or pork extract, which adds a negligible amount of any nutrient to the product. I suspect it doesn't change the taste either. I don't know why chicken extract is needed for something like non-oil Italian dressing. But I've been avoiding those dressings as well.
 
Is it just a slippery slope to use one item containing minor amounts of animal products? Health wise is there really a compelling reason to care about trivial amounts of animal products like that in extremely low calorie essentially fat-free foods?

Hi -

 

there's definitely a strong genetic component to cholesterol.  I knew a long-term vegan with high cholesterol - her whole family had it - she ended up taking natural remedies - can't remember what - to lower her cholesterol and managed to stay off of the pharmaceuticals.  Maybe research what you can do in conjunction with the vegan diet to lower cholesterol.

 

I saw a video with the author of The China Study on Youtube where he said that he didn't think a little fish was necessarily that harmful to health, but once people start making exceptions they tend to just slip back into their old omnivore diet, so he thinks it's best to remain vegan.  I have seen this in practice, so it's something to consider.

 

You point out the problem of health veganism.  It really wouldn't be harmful to your health to have some animal ingredients here and there, so why stay vegan?  Other than the argument above, I don't know.  That's the source of a lot of conflict on this board!

 

I would encourage you to learn as much as you can about animals used for the food industry.  Whenever animals are involved in making a profit, the animals never fare well, and maybe that can be a compelling enough reason to make the statement with your dollars and emotions to stay vegan.  To me it's not worth it to hurt animals so terribly for convenience or a taste preference. I know you're in a different country, but I do not believe that the treatment of animals where you are is any better than you will see on these links (and I suspect it may be even worse):

 

http://www.whyvegan.com

http://www.factoryfarming.org

http://www.meetyourmeat.com

http://www.earthlings.com (watch streaming video for free)

 

Congratulations on your weight loss and positive health changes!  Losing that much weight is an accomplishment.


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#6 Old 09-01-2012, 12:18 PM
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Regarding some of the products you mentioned, I don't think I have ever seen meat extracts in salad dressing.

 

FYI he lives in Japan.


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#7 Old 09-01-2012, 03:51 PM
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 I'm happy I'm not contributing to the misery of animals (and I feel less guilty around my pet Java Sparrow when I'm not eating chicken)

That's great you care about animals. Being vegan is the best thing you can do for animals.

 

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Originally Posted by douglerner View Post
The problem is that my cholesterol didn't improve after all this time on vegan eating

15 weeks should be enough time to see improvement so I'm curious why you're not seeing any.

Regardless, other non-drug methods of reducing cholesterol include regular exercise and lots of fiber intake. Are you doing those things?

And like RunnerVeggie said, if you smoke then quit. I know it's hard to quit smoking but if you care about your health you absolutely have to quit.

 

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Originally Posted by douglerner View Post
So I am not quite sure why I am doing vegan, except that it makes it easy to control calories and lose weight. I suppose that's a good enough reason.

Well, yes that's a good enough reason.

 

Also you said earlier that you do care about animals. So being vegan is enormous in terms of reducing animal suffering.

You may also care about the environment. If so, being vegan is generally a great thing for the environment.

And you might care about the wellness of humanity and thus you may not want to contribute towards the ill-effects of industrialized animal agriculture such as the increased spread of zoonotic disease and pollution, etc.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by douglerner View PostHealth wise is there really a compelling reason to care about trivial amounts of animal products like that in extremely low calorie essentially fat-free foods?

 

No, if your only concern is your individual health then there's no reason to worry about "trivial" amounts of animal products...

... unless you're the type of person who easily backslides and a little animal-based flavoring here and there winds up being entire meals of dead animals and oil. For some people, saturated fat and oil are like alcohol and they have to treat themselves like alcoholics. That means none, period. Other people can handle small amounts without trouble. I don't know which you are but I'm guessing if you tend to gain weight easily and you have cholesterol and blood sugar problems then you're more likely to be the type who easily over-does it. You might be better off just abstaining from all animal products. But you know yourself best. Do what feels right for you.

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#8 Old 09-01-2012, 03:59 PM
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So while I'm happy I'm not contributing to the misery of animals (and I feel less guilty around my pet Java Sparrow when I'm not eating chicken) my main interest in starting this program was for health reasons.
 

 

What you wrote reminded me of Franz Kafka who, after he became a vegetarian, went to the Berlin Aquarium and stood in front of the fish in the tanks and said, "Now at last I can look at you in peace. I don't eat you anymore."


"If you want to know where you would have stood on slavery before the civil war, don't look at where you stand on slavery today, look at where you stand on animal rights." - Paul Watson.

 

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#9 Old 09-01-2012, 05:16 PM
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If you're having doubts about your plant-based diet here are some documentaries I would recommend.

 

With a health focus: "Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death" (free on youtube)

                                 "Food Matters"

                                 "Forks Over Knives"

                                 "Vegucated"

                                 "Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead"

 

For animal & environmental:  "Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home"

                                               "Earthlings"

 

 

Just because you are on cholesterol lowering meds does now does not mean you will have to be forever. There are certain foods that help with lowering cholesterol levels. Dr. Fuhrman also sells a natural herbal pill to lower cholesterol. Are you exercising as well?

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#10 Old 09-01-2012, 05:54 PM
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Thanks for your responses, people.

 

Penny: I'll look over your recipes. I did buy miso, but my attempts at making an edible (potable?) miso soup have been a failure so far. My restraints are just not really being a big cook - both by knowledge and inclination.

 

RunnerVeggie: The Ornish site (and similar sites, like the Esselstyn site) post various research studies. I'm not a medical person, so getting into a "who is right" debate on this point would be hopeless for me. But they do claim extensive research results on this. This is the kind of diet Bill Clinton went on too. I don't know if the nuts and oils you mention are bad for the heart or not, like those doctors claim, but I do know that the absence of them is what has helped me keep my calories under control and helped me lose over 43 lb these past 15 weeks. Also, I'm not so concerned about my HDL going down. I'm more curious about why my LDL actually creeped UP.

 

VeganFifi: It sounds like you are in the same quandary I'm in! Right now the main argument that seems persuasive to me is the "slippery slope" argument. Where does one stop? I can't think of a logical argument. I do recognize the emotional arguments some people have made here, and I'm not immune to those. It just wasn't really my question, at the moment.

 

Elaine: Yes - I also started doing daily exercise. For example, I stopped using my 50 cc moped, bought a bicycle and take daily rides along a nearby river. And I do resistance training and a bit of indoor calisthenics. Previously I hadn't done any exercise at all.  I am not a smoker. Or a drinker. About the cholesterol, my doctor says the fact that I'm not eating any cholesterol is just "too simplistic" and that "it's more complicated than that." All I can say is he must be right. While I was hoping for dramatic reductions in LDL, it just didn't happen. Instead my LDL creeped up from 136 (just inside the normal range) to 150 (a bit over the normal range).

 

Nara: I'll look up those documentaries.

 

Thanks again, people. Very interesting feedback!

 

doug

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#11 Old 09-01-2012, 05:54 PM
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you need green onions for a good miso soup.  :)   And a dashi or mushroom/soy sauce broth.  :)

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#12 Old 09-01-2012, 05:58 PM
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you need green onions for a good miso soup.  :)   And a dashi or mushroom/soy sauce broth.  :)

 

Yes, I got those. I can't find any dashi without some sort of fish extract or powder in it. And I hate soy sauce - but did get dried shiitake. All I can say is my homemade miso soup is the absolute worst miso soup I have ever tasted in my life. :)

 

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#13 Old 09-01-2012, 09:37 PM
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Two things to note--first of all, these celebrity MDs are selling products (their "plan," or sometimes books or supplements) and thus have a potential source for bias. They have a huge vested interest in promoting whatever diet they are trying to promote, so you should look for support for their claims outside of their own interpretations of the research.

Secondly, MDs are really not very knowledgeable about nutrition. In the US, the appropriate health professional for diet advice is a Registered Dietitian. Here is some info on low fat diets from Ginny Messina, a vegan RD: http://www.theveganrd.com/2010/03/fat-in-vegan-diets-how-low-should-you-go.html

Although I'm not sure if it would affect your cholesterol, vitamin B12 is very important for heart health (as well as many other essential functions). If you aren't already supplementing B12, you need to start. If you do supplement B12, read up from sources like theVeganRD blog and veganhealth.org to be sure your are getting adequate amounts.
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#14 Old 09-02-2012, 07:15 PM
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RunnerVeggie,

 

I do take a multivitamin every day with B12 in it. I'll take a look at the link you recommended.

 

Dean Ornish's center is a non-profit by the way, and while he sells books, he also provides all the info free at his site and his site doesn't seem to be selling anything at all at the site from what I can tell.

 

Thanks,

 

doug

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#15 Old 09-02-2012, 07:27 PM
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Yes, I got those. I can't find any dashi without some sort of fish extract or powder in it. And I hate soy sauce - but did get dried shiitake. All I can say is my homemade miso soup is the absolute worst miso soup I have ever tasted in my life. :)

 

doug


hahaha :/  bummer!

 

here is a recipe for sweet potato miso soup.  of course it will have more calories than straight up miso soup, but it should be more filling and maybe tastier?  http://lifecurrents.dw2.net/vegan-sweet-potato-miso-soup/ (leaving out oil)

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#16 Old 09-02-2012, 07:32 PM
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Penny,

 

Looking over that recipe, it certainly sounds like the oil would not be missed. I'm curious about the vegetable broth though. I've checked various vegetable broths and boullions at my local supermarket, and surprisingly they all contain non-vegan ingredients. Do I have to also make my own vegetable broth from scratch?

 

Thanks,

 

doug

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#17 Old 09-02-2012, 07:38 PM
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Hmm, I don't know.  It's easy to get vegan broths here in the U.S.  Probably definitely have less salt if you make your own.  It doesn't take too long and you can keep it simple, just using celery, parsley, carrots.....you could also try that recipe with water since it does have the veggies added and blended?

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#18 Old 09-02-2012, 07:42 PM
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You can save the scraps from the veggies you cut up to prepare and freeze them until you have a gallon freezer bag full, then boil the veggies in water to make broth. Ends and such...the things you throw away.
 

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#19 Old 09-02-2012, 08:20 PM
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How large is your freezer, Kari?! :)

 

Maybe I can save scraps in a pint freezer bag. :)

 

Thanks for the idea!

 

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#20 Old 09-02-2012, 08:28 PM
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A gallon freezer bag isn't that big...? About 10x10 inches? How small is your freezer? LOL
 

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#21 Old 09-03-2012, 12:57 AM
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Hey Doug,

 

First of all, congratulations on your weight loss and blood sugar results, and congratulations on being 15 weeks vegan. Change ain't easy and it takes a certain strength of character to achieve it!

 

Regarding your cholesterol, I am no expert, but I remember reading that vegans can have this problem if they are low in vit B12 and Essential fatty Acids (EFAs). I realise you are supplementing B12, but some people are unable to absorb it via the digestive system. If you have taken antibiotics, are or have been a smoker, have had surgery, or have any digestive disorders, your B12 absorption may well be compromised.

 

The most reliable ways to get B12 in these cases are I think either via injection, or as a sublingual tablet (dissolves under the tongue and allows the B12 to enter the bloodstream directly). As for EFAs, I believe the best and most natural sources are tender leafy greens, spinach, lettuce etc, closely followed by avocados, walnuts etc. You need to eat a lot of leafy greens to get your EFAs or a very small amount of avocado/walnut... up to 1lb of leafy greens per day, or half an avocado, or a couple of walnuts per day.

 

Hope this is helpful!


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#22 Old 09-03-2012, 01:49 AM
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Hi, RIchie.

 

I haven't taken antibiotics, nor have I been a smoker, and didn't really have any "cut me open" surgery, though a stent was installed. I have not digestive disorders. So I don't know that there is any reason why B12 would not be absorbed.

 

I like spinach and lettuce, so I could eat more of those. 1 lb (!) of leafy greens sounds like a lot though!

 

On the other hand, I will often eat a frozen pack of mixed vegetables that weighs 400 gm. That's almost a pound. Sill, the volume of a pound of spinach, say, would be huge!

 

Thanks,

 

doug

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#23 Old 09-05-2012, 09:47 AM
 
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First off Congrats on your success so far it is motivating for guy's like me. I don't also understand why your cholesterol levels are not going down and I would re-test.

Did you follow the fasting directions before the blood test? Speaking of, I am on cloud nine with just getting the results today. First off I have been on Crestor (statin) for over 3 years more like 4 or so. I had a overall Chol levels near 400! My LDL was at alarming levels. A couple years ago even being on Crestor my levels were to high so my Doctor put me another drug Niaspan to lower them also .I had side effects and quit it...horrible stuff.

 

I started 2 months ago on exercise and diet control. Thirty days ago I went to an all Vegan diet. Today my overall Chol levels were  a 91 overall (150 normal) HDL was 33 (100 normal)...33!    YES!!!!! I have been working hard and now can come off my statin drugs one of my main goals. If I can do this in around 70 days I don't understand why yours is going up. I'm sorry not trying to  gloat here but I am flying over the news.

 

This helps my motivation and along with my education the treatment of animals, factory farming etc I can now become a better Vegan and feel healthy doing so.

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#24 Old 09-05-2012, 11:00 AM
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It is misleading to bill any diet as "heart disease reversal." The science just isn't there to back it up.

Yes it is, Ornish and others have decades of research that demonstrate that you can, in most cases, successfully reverse heart disease with diet.  

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#25 Old 09-05-2012, 11:12 AM
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The problem is that my cholesterol didn't improve after all this time on vegan eating and my doctor recently started me on a statin. So now I'll never know if vegan eating helps with cholesterol over a longer term or if any future improvements are just due to the statin. Before starting on the statin, my LDL creeped up from 136 to 150, and my HDL went down.
 

 

What are you eating?  Ornish's program is centered around whole plant-foods, and if you have a cholesterol problem you should be eating at "level 1" on his spectrum.   Vegan diets, in general, don't necessarily lower cholesterol and Ornish's program isn't even vegan....  Two things can effect your cholesterol on a vegan diet.  First, the obvious, is fat intake.  If you're still eating a lot of fat you shouldn't expect much of a change in your cholesterol levels.  Second is refined carbohydrates, these can raise your triglycerides. 

 

Regardless, though rare some people just over produce cholesterol and/or their bodies are terrible at getting rid of it. So while diet may work for the vast majority, it doesn't work for everyone.    As for the drugs, as your cholesterol levels get under control and you're confident you're following a healthful diet you can slowly lower your dose to see to what degree you need the drugs. 

 

PS.  Yes, your doctor is right.  Dietary cholesterol is only loosely correlated with blood cholesterol levels, your body produces cholesterol so you also have to deal with the factors that cause your body to over produce cholesterol as well.  

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#26 Old 09-05-2012, 07:24 PM
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BR50 - It sounds like you are doing very well. While I'm losing weight, I seem to be having the opposite reaction of you cholesterol-wise. You started with statins though, so that could explain why your cholesterol went down, couldn't it? I decided to start without statins and didn't add them until 8/8 when I saw the diet was not helping with my LDL. I've had my cholesterol measured on 5/19, 5/24, 6/27 and 8/8. 

 

I received no fasting instructions before the blood test from my doctor.

 

I sent a letter to Caldwell Esselstyn about this and received the following reply two days ago:

 

"LDL is the bad cholesterol.  The closer it can be to 80-85 the better.

However, if one is unable to take statin drug and is eating plant based
nutrition, and the LDL won't go lower than 95-105, it would appear that
they will be fine.  The lesson we learned from the Tarahumara Indians,
who never have cardiovascular disease, is the most key protective
element is not so much the pure LDL number as is knowing that nothing
ever is eaten which is a building block of vascular disease or can
injure endothelium.  Also, keep in mind that some people do need the
help of a statin along with the diet."

 

From that there are basically two pieces of useful information I can glean: (1) some people just need statins to keep their cholesterol down and (2) it's important not to eat anything which can injure endothelium. I don't know what that latter one means, or how I can measure it.

 

In fact, I don't know how I can measure ANYTHING that tells me if my vegan/non-oil diet is helping with my heart health. 

 

So this whole thing is still very confusing to me.

 

Logic: I am eating the Ornish "Level 1" plus his guidelines for heart-disease reversal. So it is stricter than Level 1. It's basically vegan + no added oils + no nuts or seeds.

 

Thanks, people.

 

doug

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#27 Old 09-05-2012, 08:15 PM
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Doug, did you get a chance to read the link I posted above? http://www.theveganrd.com/2010/03/fat-in-vegan-diets-how-low-should-you-go.html

In addition to that one, Ginny Messina, a registered dietitian, has several other posts on fats in vegan diets that you might find helpful: http://www.theveganrd.com/tag/fat She has a wonderful way of explaining scientific research for lay people, so I think that her posts may help ease some of your confusion. Your question about measuring "damage" to endothelium by certain foods is a valid one--there is really no way to test that currently. I hope that you are open to changing your opinion on fats--these no added oil/no high fat plant food diets are highly restrictive without sufficient scientific evidence. In my opinion, they are fad diets.

I have been on a low fat diet in the past that was about 15% calories from fat, which was doable and I slowly lost weight to reach a healthy weight, but now that I am eating vegan I find a little less restriction of fat helpful. I could still work on improving my eating habits and exercise, but I am approaching a healthy balance.
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#28 Old 09-05-2012, 08:20 PM
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Originally Posted by BR50 View Post

I started 2 months ago on exercise and diet control. Thirty days ago I went to an all Vegan diet. Today my overall Chol levels were  a 91 overall (150 normal) HDL was 33 (100 normal)...33!    YES!!!!! I have been working hard and now can come off my statin drugs one of my main goals. If I can do this in around 70 days I don't understand why yours is going up. I'm sorry not trying to  gloat here but I am flying over the news.

You do realize that for HDL, higher is better, right? 100 is not a normal HDL value, so maybe you are mixing it up with something else.
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#29 Old 09-05-2012, 08:41 PM
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RunnerVeggie: I did read that link with interest. I really see no reason, though, to add fat to my diet when I'm doing so well in losing weight, not to mention controlling blood sugar as a result. Seriously - I looked around, read books, read the Ornish program, read the Esselstyn program, read about what Bill Clinton did and decided to try this way of eating. I've only been on it for about 4 months and have lost a great deal of weight and gotten my blood sugar under control. I greatly appreciate the people supporting me and I haven't heard any reason to change. As far as I can see, all adding fats would do is slow down my weight loss. And weight loss is critical to me!

 

Thanks,

 

doug

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#30 Old 09-05-2012, 09:53 PM
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Generally you're supposed to not drink of eat anything 12 hours before the blood test. Perhaps retake it after fasting?
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