Cholesterol Update with Berberine, January 2017

The last time I checked my cholesterol in September 2016 it showed a slight improvement in my LDL-P, LDL-C, and total cholesterol simply by following the Whole 30 diet for 2 weeks.  Despite these improvements, my small LDL-P remained elevated at 984 which was concerning.

As you can see with my cholesterol charts, I’ve been living with a high LDL-P for almost 4 years now which is far too long.

When the new year rolled around, I resolved to make 2017 the year that I finally get to the bottom of my cholesterol issues  and lay things to rest like I did with my HbA1c.

I’ve decided that by the end of the year I’ll get both a coronary calcium scan AND a carotid intimal media thickness test to assess what damage, if any, is manifesting in my vessels.

If I still can’t get my cholesterol under control it’s probably time for me to consider taking statins… which is something I desperately want to avoid.

I’m still hopeful I can avoid them because I stumbled on to a winning formula in 2015, but it was a shot gun approach with multiple components.  While it worked… it  left me with  questions like:

Which components had the greatest effects?  Which had the least?  Which of them could I strip away?  Do they all need to be taken together in concert?

I initially wanted to test each of these things but my plans went awry due to various life events, like changes in my job and a move across the country.

Here are links to what I’ve tried so far:

Did My Anti-Cholesterol Gameplan Work?  YES!

In which I try to dissect the components…

Now that my life has settled down a bit I can get back to testing regularly.

Another obstacle I now realize that made things difficult for me was my testing interval.  I generally liked to test for 30 days in order to give my body a full month to adjust to whatever changes were made… but this length of time made it too easy to fall off the wagon.  LIFE inevitably gets in the way and interferes with what I’m trying to do.

I’m going to try shortening my testing period to 2 weeks.  It’s a short enough period of time to easily stick with an experiment while long enough to give the body time to adjust.  My body might not adjust fully… but a trend should emerge which will still be helpful.

What did I decide to try next?  Berberine

We saw in the links above that bionic fiber and VSL#3 probiotics by themselves didn’t have much of an effect on my cholesterol, so the next reasonable item to test was Berberine.

I took the same type of Berberine as before: Thorne Research Berberine.  At the same dose: 500 mg twice a day.

My diet remained Whole 30-ish and I continued a similar regimen of supplements including:

Athletic Greens
Thorne Research Curcumin
Great Lakes Collagen Hydrolysate
Thorne Research Super EPA Fish Oil


And for historical context:

Any Changes?

LDL-P: Dropped to 1804 from 1974 for a loss of 9%

Small LDL-P: Dropped to 770 from 984, for a loss 22%

LDL-C: Dropped to 153 from 161, for a loss of 5%

Triglycerides: Still under control at 71, slightly down 84

HDL-C: Up to 49 from 40

Total Cholesterol: Stable at 216

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Final Thoughts

It looks like things are  moving in the right direction with an almost 10% improvement in my LDL-P and a significant improvement in my Small LDL-P of more than 20%.

I wonder what will happen if I increase my dose of Berberine to 500 mg three times a day…

Let’s see in two weeks!

*Image found here

12 Responses to Cholesterol Update with Berberine, January 2017

  1. Evinx says:

    What do you think is the reason Berberine might lower LDL-P? Normally Berberine is to help with glucose levels.

    • BJJ Caveman says:

      Berberine supposedly helps with insulin sensitivity which can play a role in cholesterol metabolism. The lipidologist I consulted with believed my cholesterol issues were related to underlying insulin resistance.

      I plan to do a post on Berberine sometime… hopefully sooner rather than later.

  2. Michael says:

    I’ve found your detailed cholesterol reporting really helpful. I have struggled with chronically low HDL my entire life, and in recent years my triglycerides have been way too high. I went keto in January and have been amazed by the benefits to body comp, mental clarity, but the impact on my lipids has been surprisingly negative.

    My numbers in February closely mirrored your early, post-keto testing stats — especially LDL-P which was quite concerning. I’ve been doing 3X500 daily Berberine for about a month now, and plan to get another NMR in early May. I also plan to add in Bergamot after that.

    I noticed some very obvious hypothyroid symptoms after a month of keto, and my TSH has gone up, so I suspect I’ve been dealing with a sub clinical thyroid issue for some time now. My doc has agreed to try some NDT so we shall see how that impacts things. I have certainly read recent opinions from folks who believe that thyroid issues can be a root cause for lipid abnormalities…

    Anyway, thanks for chronicling your efforts — it is very much appreciated!

    • BJJ Caveman says:

      Glad to help! Would love to get a followup on your labs in May too! Hopefully things will look better for you then.

      • Michael says:

        So I got antsy and went and had a basic lipid test done — will do another NMR in a couple of months. The only thing I have changed since the last test is adding in the Berberine and backing off a bit on my saturated fats. I am also, of course, a couple of months further along on my low carb journey and the rapid weight loss that I was experiencing at the time of the last NMR has slowed.

        Las test had TGL at 189, HDL at 25, and LDL-C at 179. We won’t even discuss the horror of my LDL-P numbers…

        Today I showed TGL 128, HDL 28, and LDL-C 169. So, triglycerides are noticeably improved, HDL is unmoved (as always, sadly), and LDL looks better, but not enough to escape the range of test variance. Still, I’m glad that the LDL *seems* to be heading in the right direction.

        I think I will add Bergamot next week and test again in June.

  3. Sergi says:

    It is pretty scary how similar your lipid panel is to mine… I have been paleo since 2009 and my cholesterol levels were high, but always in the acceptable ranges (so I never had LDL-P checked). Around a year ago, after starting a diet closer to keto (increased saturated fats, mostly coconut oil) my cholesterol levels sky rocketed and I had a complete lipid panel.

    Initially my doc was expecting a small number on the LDL-P but the results were pretty bad: 3495. He recommended to remove as much saturated fat as possible. A year later, my LDL-P was stabilized around 2800, with small LDL-P around 1200. Still too high. So I started “a plan” trying a bunch of different things together:

    – Remove as much as possible saturated fat (basically means I reduced the red meat intake to once a week and ate more fish).
    – Only use olive oil and avocado oil.
    – Started eating more antiinflamatory foods (and added curcumin and garlic supplements to reduce inflamation).
    – Took ~500mg of Nicacin per day.
    – Increased Omega 3 consumption (through fish + supplementation)
    – Added 5000iu of Vitamin D

    The results came back after following this for a month, and while most markers (total cholesterol, LDL, LDL-P) are down 20%, my small LDL-P is still around 1200. Which is the main value that I wanted to decrease.

    Around 2 weeks ago I started supplementing with Berberine, and I will redo my lipid panel in a month from now. I will share the results when I have them. I would be more than happy with values between 1000 and 1500.

    And following the similarities, I am also working on the stretch program from gymnasticbodies.

    • BJJ Caveman says:

      Sounds like we would be great friends if we lived in the same neighborhood! If you also did BJJ we’d be total bros!

      Keep us posted on your cholesterol results too! Hopefully the changes you made improved them.

      • Sergi says:

        No BJJ! I run sprints (100-200) so explosive burst. I wonder why so many people I hear that has high levels of ldl-p are generally fit.

        Yeah, I will update when I have a second round of results with Berberine. I am not sure if you have ever checked “Track your plaque” program; it seems like an interesting place to start before worrying too much about the ldl-p / small ldl-p numbers. I plan on doing a heart scan next time I meet with my doctor to evaluate what level of plaque I have (if any).

        Another interesting case is the one described by Dave Feldman. Similar values than us, did a N=1 experiment on himself, and found out that he could precisely estimate his LDL-P with the number of calories eaten the 3 days before a blood analysis. So, higher calorie consumption -> lower LDL-P (up to 50% lower). A good podcast with him is: “Episode 12 Decoding Cholesterol with Dave Feldman”.

  4. Dustin says:

    I posted on a previous thread stating that I was seeing progress after adding a lot of fiber to my diet and cutting back on meat/fat somewhat. I did another test a few months later, and it appears that my cholesterol continues to plummet, but not necessarily in a good way.

    My HDL went from 41 to 30
    LDL-C from 142 to 99
    Total Cholesterol from 203 to 160
    Triglycerides from 100 to 156
    Cholesterol/HDL ratio from 5 to 5.33
    Trigl/HDL ratio from 2.44 to 5.2
    hs-CRP from 0.2 to 1.4

    I did use a different test (Everlywell spot test) vs. a standard blood test last time, but I find it hard to believe that would make that much of a difference. The only positive thing is that LDL went down…everything else looks worse. I did start crossfit again in February, but I only go 3 times/week, so I doubt it had that much of an impact.

    I’m curious to see what your results are with berberine. I’m thinking I need to trend back to my old diet (paleo-ish with lower carbs) and perhaps use something else to get LDL down.

    • BJJ Caveman says:

      It’s interesting to see that your trigs went up too! How many carbs were you eating?

      Do you know what the accuracy of the EverlyWell tests are?

    • BJJ Caveman says:

      Yeah, I’ve been following his stuff peripherally and really need to take a good long look at it.

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