I had normal cholesterol, went low carb, and then ketogenic, and saw that my cholesterol started to go crazy. I tried a host of things to bring it down including raising my carbs and taking various supplements to no effect. I finally saw a lipidologist, did some more research, and came up with a 12 point gameplan which surprisingly worked!
I’ve received some fair criticism for doing things in this manner because I essentially added so many variables at once which can make it hard to conclude anything at all. Ash Simmonds probably said things best in the comments here:
You changed too many things at once to be able to conclude anything meaningful whatsoever here.
What if all of this occurred simply because you changed your mouthwash, and the rest was a waste of time?
(He wasn’t the only one btw).
I have to disagree because the one thing we DO know is that these 12 changes worked, we just can’t conclude WHICH of these changes or combination of changes did the trick. High sensitivity, low specificity.
The next step for me was to slowly peel away each of these changes and reassess my labs to see what, if any effects there are. Also this would make my life easier since it’s one less pill or powder to take.
Bergamot was the first supplement I subtracted.
In My Anti-Cholesterol Gameplan post I wrote:
This was another supplement recommended by my lipidologist. She explained that this may help with my cholesterol hypersynthesis because its mechanism of action is similar to that of statins but without the side effects.
In my research, it seems like this is a relatively new substance with one of the main articles touting this coming from the Wall Street Journal in January 2015 citing a study showing:
In a month long study of 77 patients published in 2013 in the International Journal of Cardiology, 1000 mg daily of bergamot extract lowered cholesterol from an average of 278 mg/dl to 191.
Here is a link to the abstract of the study itself. As opposed to Berberine, there really isn’t much data out there, and we still don’t know what the exact mechanism of action is and what the side effects are.
Since I was willing to do anything to bring down my LDL-P, I figured a 30 day trial with this should be ok.
I went with HP LifeScience Citrus Bergamot because their website looked reputable to me… which probably isn’t the best criteria to use.
Because of the lack of research and information on the mechanism of action and side effect profile, this was also the supplement I felt least comfortable taking, and therefore was the first one I wanted to remove.
What Happened to My Cholesterol?
Here’s how it looks in relation to all my prior tests:
LDL-P: Things took a turn for the worse with a bump up to 1817 from 1489, for a rise in 330 points
Small LDL-P: This got worse also with a rise to 886 from the almost normal 592.
LDL-C: Interestingly this didn’t change much, only going up to 135 from 125. From the looks of things my LDL-P and LDL-C are now moving towards a more discordant pattern.
Triglycerides: Stable at 69, indicating that despite eating more carbs, I’m still not eating enough to raise my trigs.
HDL-C: Slight improvement, rising to 56 from 47. I’m not reading too much into this because this is within the normal range my HDL stays as you can see from the chart. In my case this is probably genetic more than anything, since nothing I do really moves the needle significantly.
HbA1c: When the lipidologist checked my HbA1c in July it had bounced up to 5.9 from being rock solid at 5.7 for the past two years, which made me worry a little. It’s back down to 5.7 now, despite all the changes I’ve made, including increasing my carb intake. This makes me think that the 5.9 value was likely due to lab variation. I normally get my blood tests through Labcorp, but the blood tests done with my lipidolologist went through her lab, Health Diagnostic Laboratory.
After I stopped taking Bergamot, it looks like both my LDL-P and Small LDL-P increased and got worse. Superficially, this appears as if Bergamot is responsible for this change, but I’m not so sure this is an accurate conclusion that can be drawn.
Another potential explanation is simple variation. It’s been shown that cholesterol numbers can vary 10-20% for no reason at all, so this may account for my numbers.
This isn’t to say that Bergamot ISN’T responsible, it’s just to say that I can’t say that it 100% IS responsible.
In any case, it’s an interesting development and will be something to keep an eye on.
The next component of my Anti-Cholesterol Gameplan I’ll be removing is bionic fiber. I’ll be continuing with:
- Reduce saturated fat intake
- Eat more beans
- Eat low carb but not ketogenic
- Reduce coffee consumption
- Probiotics including VSL#3, Prescript Assist, and Primadophilus Reuteri.
- Omega 3
- Vitamins and Minerals (Athletic Greens, Vitamins D+K, Magnesium Threonate)
- Optimize Oral Hygiene
- Maintain exercise (BJJ 4-5x per week, weight lift 1-2x per week).
You may have noticed that I’ve stopped updating my food on MyFitnessPal. I’ve been getting lazy about doing this because my diet hasn’t really changed these past few months and I found having to input info after every meal starting to get tedious. I might start it back up later on, but I’m enjoying this bit of freedom for the time being.
*Image found here