A woman approached me with concerns for her elevated cholesterol levels. She said that she had a friend with similar problems that went on a high protein/low carbohydrate diet, and as a result, showed lowered cholesterol levels. I know there is more to it, and I asked her to refrain from any extreme diets until I could get more information. What is the reason for her friend’s results? Are high protein diets really bad?
First, your client should consult with a physician, an R.D. or a nutritionist for a science-based diet, not a diet based on empirical evidence. It is not recommended for someone to ingest a high protein diet to lower cholesterol. However, let’s explore some possible reasons for this individual's positive results:
- Eating prior to a cholesterol test will result in an elevated cholesterol level. If a person took their first test after eating and their second test without eating, it would show a lowered level of cholesterol.
- Stress will elevate cholesterol; therefore, depending on stress levels, one’s cholesterol level can change.
- What kinds of protein is this person eating? Saturated fats (animal proteins) and cholesterol will cause an increase in one’s cholesterol level, while beans, legumes and cold water fish will help to decrease it.
- Has this person increased his/her exercise duration and/or intensity since the first test? Exercise helps to lower cholesterol.
- A high calorie diet will cause an increase in fat storage, thus raising one’s cholesterol level. High protein diets are low calorie diets in disguise. If a person cuts back on total calories, their cholesterol level can decrease.
- Is this individual on medication or supplements to help reduce her cholesterol level?
- General eating guidelines for those with high cholesterol levels is to consume a vegetarian based diet high in niacin and vitamin C. Good foods include:
Carrots and carrot juice
Cold water fish
Eating plenty of fiber, reducing saturated fats, avoiding alcohol, soda, coffee, tea, tobacco and sugar (cookies, cake, etc.), decreasing stress levels and exercising regularly will help to decrease cholesterol levels.
Note: Some people have high cholesterol due to heredity. Despite what they do, they cannot normalize their levels.