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’m now in the process of peeling away parts of my gameplan to see what changes, if any happen to my cholesterol levels.
Most recently I screwed things up by stopping everything at once and found that my LDL-P rebounded back to the stratosphere.
Because I suspected that the main factors responsible for lowering my LDL in 2015 were between the probiotics, berberine, and bergamot, my plan to isolate each of their effects was to:
- Take ~500 billion bacteria of VSL#3 daily for 4-6 weeks
- Check lipids
- Go off VSL#3 for 2 weeks
- Take 1000 mg Thorne Research Berberine daily for 4-6 weeks
- Check lipids
- Go off Berberine for 2 weeks
- Take 500 mg HP LifeScience Citrus Bergamot daily for 4-6 weeks
- Check lipids
So here we are, after 6 weeks of taking VSL#3, I checked my lipids.
Before jumping into the results, I just wanted to highlight again why this was my choice of probiotic. I wrote a review of VSL#3 showing why I felt this was the most legit probiotic on the market. There are over 200 entries in PubMed referring to VSL#3 which has been studied in all sorts of patients including babies and breast feeding mothers.
It’s also shipped in a sturdy styrofoam container filled with ice packs to keep everything cooled properly. This definitely isn’t one of those shady fly-by-night operations.
A paper out of India showed that
… the probiotic preparation VSL#3 affected insulin sensitivity, lipid profile, and atherogenic index favourably and reduced hsCRP, a marker of inflammation, in overweight/obese adults. Probiotic given in combination with omega-3 was more effective than probiotic alone.
The improvement in the lipid markers was specifically:
HDL increased by 23.2% and LDL decreased by 10.7%; triglycerides decreased by 7.78% and VLDL by 7.78% in the probiotic with omega-3 group, compared with baseline levels
And oh yeah… VSL#3 has been shown to be protective against weight gain.
Unfortunately it’s not cheap. Just basing it off of prices from Amazon:
- Pack of 30 VSL#3 Sachets for $94.91 = 142 billion bacteria per dollar
- Bottle of 60 VSL#3 Capsules for $56.49 = 119.5 billion bacteria per dollar
To make sure I was taking enough, I aimed for around 500 billion bacteria per day.
I started off with the bottle because of the convenience, but then decided to try out the Sachets since it offered 33.5 billion more bacteria per dollar.
Oh yeah, I started tracking my diet again
To get a more quantitative sense of what I’ve been eating, I’m now regularly logging my diet. If you want to see what kind of stuff I’ve been eating just add me as a friend on the myfitnesspal.com site. Fair warning: I haven’t been as paleo as I should have been. The hospital I work at serves these breaded chicken tender things that are pretty tasty… and just so damn convenient.
Here is the macronutrient break down from last January to now:
- Calories: 2310
- Carbs: 147
- Fat: 126
- Protein: 144
- Sat Fat: 46
What Happened to my Cholesterol?
The Tabulated Version
LDL-P: Slight reduction to 2269 from 2468
Small LDL-P: Slight reduction to 996 from 1159
LDL-C: Slight reduction to 180 from 196
Triglycerides: Slight reduction to 85 from 98
HDL-C: Stable at 58
Total Cholesterol: Slight reduction to 255 from 276
CRP: 0.41 meaning no real systemic inflammation going on in my body.
So what does this mean?
My LDL-P, Small LDL-P, LDL-C, and Total Cholesterol all dropped 8-10%. I’m just not sure what to make of it. Were these changes real? Or just noise?
I mean, this coincides with that study from India showing a drop in LDL-C of 10.7% but we also know that variations of 10-20% can occur. I guess the one thing I CAN conclude is that VSL#3 alone wasn’t responsible for the huge drop in my LDL-P in 2015… but it may have played a role. Maybe it wasn’t a single factor that lowered my cholesterol but a summation of factors.
I can imagine a scenario where VSL#3 lowers my LDL by 10-20%, Berberine by another 10-20%, and Bergamot by another 10-20%.
Before I muddy the waters though, I think it’s best for me to continue on with my current plan. Next up 2 weeks of no probiotics followed by Thorne Research Berberine.
And of course, I’m still doing all of this stuff:
- Reduce saturated fat intake
- Eat low carb but not ketogenic
- Omega 3
- Vitamins and Minerals (Athletic Greens, Vitamins D+K, Magnesium)
- Oral Hygiene
- Exercise regularly, BJJ 4-5x per week and weight lift 1-2x per week
*Image found here