Sunday, February 21, 2010

Full of yummy badness

I must have anorexia. You see, every time I look at myself in the mirror, I see a fat goat...

My doctor had an absolute fit a month or so ago when he saw the results of my cholesterol test. “You must reduce the fat in your diet. Wholesale lifestyle changes, otherwise you are going to die.”

“And since when have you been the custodian of the secret of immortality?”

“All right. ‘You’re going to die soon.’ Happy now, Mr Semantically-Sensitive Goat?”

So in addition to the new prescription of cholesterol-lowering medication I have switched to a low-fat, low cholesterol, low taste, healthy diet. I now eschew lard, eggs, processed meat, red meat, butter, cheese, cream, pies, pasties, and proper milk, and instead eat fresh steamed vegetables, grilled chicken, salads with balsamic vinegar dressing, tofu, low-fat yoghurt, whole grains, horse food and rabbit food.

It’s all been a bit of a struggle really. Most of the list of Verbotenfruct is stuff I seldom if ever ate anyway: fast food burgers, cream cakes, anything containing trans-fats, deep-fried pizzas and sausages in batter. So this leaves very little in the way of Yummy Badness still to cut out. English fry-up breakfasts, steak and chips and pies are what I have had to drop, and as a self-styled Lord of the Pies this has been difficult. Now it’s zero English breakfasts a month rather than one.

Beloved Wife and I have worked hard to think up new and inventive ways to make this healthy diet palatable. At least I enjoy seasonal vegetables, and moderate consumption of booze is considered OK. There’s no cholesterol in beer, wine or G&T, although ‘moderate’ clearly precludes drowning one’s sorrows.

Anyway, the process was apparently a success, and my total cholesterol has dropped from an allegedly life-threatening 254mg/dl (or 6.57mmol/l in old money) to an astonishing 127 (or is that 3.28?) which is well below the desirable maximum value of 200. Triglyceride and LDL levels are also now the healthy side of maximum. And my blood pressure had dropped too, no thanks to work-related stress. Mysteriously, even though the new diet leaves me constantly hungry, my body weight steadfastly refuses to budge.

LDL and HDL are interesting. The misnomer is that these are ‘bad’ and ‘good’ cholesterol. Given that cholesterol is the specific molecule C27H46O there ain’t no such thing as a good one or a bad one. Actually LDL is a protein that carries cholesterol from the liver so that it can be deposited in artery walls and block them. HDL is a different protein whose purpose is to carry cholesterol from the artery walls back to the liver. Logically then, lots of HDL and little LDL is a good thing.

Unfortunately, my recent diet and pharmaceutical habit has reduced all the horribly high numbers, but has also pulled HDL below the minimum required for a healthy life. I may currently be at higher risk of heart disease that I was before messing with my body chemistry. The solution is to boost HDL by eating wholegrains, tofu, lean meat, nuts, fruit, olive oil, only moderate alcohol consumption and not smoking. This is exactly what I have been doing, paradoxically only to see HDL drop.

What constitutes high cholesterol anyway? Back in the mists of ancient time, five years before the turn of the millennium and before cholesterol had become a fashionable stick with which to beat the populace, I had a total cholesterol test that resulted in 5.7mmol/l and my doctor advising me that this was way below the average value of 7mmol/l and that I should keep up the good work. Several years later, in 2001, the result was 5.79mmol/l or 224mg/dl. Now I was advised that this was borderline high and I should take steps to lower it. An increase from 220mg/dl to 224mg/dl makes all the difference, it appears. Last month the test yielded 254mg/dl, which is now the high side of high. That’s 6.57mmol/l and still below the 1995 average.

Going off on a brief tangent here, the conversion between millimoles per litre and milligrammes per decilitre works like this:-

One cholesterol molecule C27H46O has a molecular weight of 386, so one mole weighs 386 grammes.
One millimole per litre is 0.001mol/l, or 0.0001mol/dl
Since 1mol C27H46O weighs 386g, 0.0001mol weighs 0.0386g = 38.6mg

Thus to convert, 1mmol/l x 38.6 = 1mg/dl

Back to the rant.

I am a cynical old goat. If the medical experts and pharmaceutical companies are in collusion, what better way to increase sales of cholesterol-reducing drugs than to move the goalposts defining what constitutes ‘low’, ‘acceptable’ and ‘high’? And then doctors will have no difficulty in prescribing medication to progressively more and more customers, thus increasing sales. Until we reach to point when all natural levels of cholesterol HDL and LDL are deemed unhealthy and everyone is on medication to achieve and maintain unnatural levels.

There is a long rebuttal of the widely perceived idea that ‘fat in diet = heart disease’ on this hyperlink, for anyone who’s interested enough.



Susan said...

Maybe you should also take a look at this:

Gnomad said...

I have been on cholesterol lowering drugs (statins) and have had some unpleasant side-effects, including loss of co-ordination, muscle pain and kidney trouble - resulting in a kidney stone. My Doctor will not have it that the statins are the cause of the problem, but I got symptoms within two weeks of starting the medication and the symptoms stopped within a week of stopping the medication. Having been persuaded to restart the medication not once, but twice, I have had the same symptoms appear and disappear in the same time-scale on both occasions.

Don't do statins. The supposed benefits are really not worth the potential side effects. The "benefits" are not actually proven, and low cholesterol levels, once you get into your fifties, actually make your prospects of survival very much worse for so many circumstances.

Seabee said...

Change your doctor ;-)

Ian the Dog said...

'Statin?' is a word you should only hear if your member is longitudinally challenged.

Anonymous said...

cholesterol levels are linked to heart diseast but there is NO evidence that higher cholesterol CAUSES heart disease...
its a tricksy little habit of the pharmaceutical industry. you find something that can be drugged and link it to a disease. This is a much easier method of R&D than trying to help actually illnesses under the guise of 'preventative medicine'.
stress kills... pass the fry up...


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