I’ve been trying to learn more about the relationship between low carb eating and a subsequent rise in both total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol and one of the more informative pieces I’ve come across was this case discussion by Dr. Thomas Dayspring.
It’s important to note that while he’s a lipidologist with plenty of experience under his belt, the case discussion wasn’t a peer reviewed article or published in a journal. There was also only one study that was cited which I’ve since downloaded and plan on reading.
While I definitely don’t know enough to say whether or not what he wrote is true, it definitely does give me some clues as to where to further investigate.
At this point I’m just trying to gather more information, so all I can do is keep digging around.
During one of my online excavations I came across thepaleodrummer.com, a blog written by a guy named Steve Kirsch.
From his self description he’s a lawyer, musician, crossfitter, and follower of the low carb primal/paleo template. His profile picture shows that he’s a pretty fit guy.
He wrote two posts detailing his own experience with a new onset of high LDL cholesterol while eating low carb paleo and cutting out alcohol.
The Paleodrummer’s Cholesterol Experience
What I’ll be doing is similar to what I did for the Dr. Dayspring piece, summarizing and simplifying what Steve wrote for myself and sharing it with you:
Steve begins the blog by writing:
Ten days ago, I lost my mind just a little bit.
This was his reaction after seeing his NMR cholesterol panel showing that his LDL cholesterol went up 40% in just six months. This included LDL-P, LDL-C, and small dense LDL-P.
After the initial panic he remembered that one big change he made in the prior 6 months was the removal of alcohol from his diet.
He also recalled a prior genetic test he did where he learned that his Apolipoprotein E genotype was Apo-E 2/3. He goes more into the science of Apo E and the Mendelian heredity of it much better than I can, so go to his posts if you want to read more.
Steve then points to this study where they discover folks with an Apo-E 2 allele have significantly lower LDL cholesterol when they drink alcohol.
Using this information he added one alcoholic beverage back into his diet per day and did a followup exam four months later. This time he found that he had completely reversed the 40% increase in all of his LDL numbers.
Every single one. Without any increase in any of his inflammatory markers.
Does this apply to me?
In summary, Steve was eating low carb paleo, had great numbers, then he cut out alcohol and noticed six months later that his LDL numbers went crazy. He then added one alcoholic beverage back into his diet per day and 4 months later his LDL numbers went back to normal [CORRECTION – Steve kindly chimed in in the comments section and added that his LDL didn’t quite go down to normal, but DID go back down to where it was before, which was still high]. The key for him was in his Apo-E genotype.
This is different from my situation because I don’t normally drink alcohol. In fact I very rarely drink it and haven’t done so for the past 5 years or so.
When I turned 30 something changed in my body and I realized that I just couldn’t process alcohol like I did in my youth. I jcan’t recover from nights out with the boys as fast as I used to. In my 20s, if I went out Friday night, I’d pretty much be back to 100% Saturday afternoon.
Now if I go out Friday night with the boys, I’m pretty much destroyed the entire weekend. Just a useless stinky mess that the poor BJJ Cavewife has to deal with.
So yeah… I now only imbibe on special occasions like weddings or when we visit places like Antarctica.
Not sure where I was going with this… except to say that alcohol isn’t really a part of my life at this moment and hasn’t been for a while, so I don’t think there’s a relationship in my situation between alcohol and my high cholesterol.
However, Steve’s experience does spark my curiosity into investigating Apo-E genotypes and how the various combinations of alleles affect serum cholesterol and the processing of saturated fat among other things (like risk for diabetes and dementia).
I’m also now curious as to what my Apo-E genotype is and am considering adding it to my next lab panel.
Wondering what Dr. Dayspring thinks about all this?
Me too! So I took to twitter and asked him (technology really is amazing these days), and this is what he said:
@bjjcaveman You are welcome – controversial topic
— Thomas Dayspring (@Drlipid) November 17, 2014
@bjjcaveman ApoE genotyping not of value in solving this
— Thomas Dayspring (@Drlipid) November 17, 2014
@Drlipid I really appreciate your responses thus far. Thank you!
— bjjcaveman (@bjjcaveman) November 17, 2014
There you go. Dr. Dayspring doesn’t think there’s anything to this… but I’m not convinced at this point and will continue to look into it!