New Target Cholesterol

New Target Cholesterol
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“Normal” cholesterol redefined.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Of course the primary concern is not cholesterol in our gallbladder, but cholesterol in our coronary arteries, leading to our #1 cause of death: heart disease.

People come to me all the time and say, “I don’t have to worry about what I eat because my cholesterol’s normal.” Well, having a normal cholesterol in a society in which it’s normal to die from heart disease is not saying much.

Having an average cholesterol means dying an average death. This is from the Harvard Heart Letter. “Once upon a time, average was thought to be perfectly okay.” But, “average cholesterol no longer makes the grade—lower is better.” In fact, way below average is the new target.

How low can you go? Well, we’re born with a total cholesterol down around 50. But then it quickly bounds upward, elevated by milk and fatty foods, generally breaking into the 200s by middle age. More raw material for making artery-clogging plaque.

The target is an LDL—the bad cholesterol—under 70; which means a total cholesterol around under 150. How do you do that? How do you get a total cholesterol of 150? Well, you could move to the planet of the apes. Or, just eat a strictly plant-based diet.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to Pete via flickr

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Of course the primary concern is not cholesterol in our gallbladder, but cholesterol in our coronary arteries, leading to our #1 cause of death: heart disease.

People come to me all the time and say, “I don’t have to worry about what I eat because my cholesterol’s normal.” Well, having a normal cholesterol in a society in which it’s normal to die from heart disease is not saying much.

Having an average cholesterol means dying an average death. This is from the Harvard Heart Letter. “Once upon a time, average was thought to be perfectly okay.” But, “average cholesterol no longer makes the grade—lower is better.” In fact, way below average is the new target.

How low can you go? Well, we’re born with a total cholesterol down around 50. But then it quickly bounds upward, elevated by milk and fatty foods, generally breaking into the 200s by middle age. More raw material for making artery-clogging plaque.

The target is an LDL—the bad cholesterol—under 70; which means a total cholesterol around under 150. How do you do that? How do you get a total cholesterol of 150? Well, you could move to the planet of the apes. Or, just eat a strictly plant-based diet.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to Pete via flickr

Doctor's Note

Check out these more recent videos on cholesterol:
Optimal Cholesterol Level
Switching from Beef to Chicken & Fish May Not Lower Cholesterol
The Problem with the Paleo Diet Argument

And check out my other videos on cholesterol

For more context, see my associated blog post: Stool Size & Breast Cancer Risk.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

16 responses to “New Target Cholesterol

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  1. It’s funny how the cited source gave a powerful quantitative argument for becoming vegetarian, but then goes on to conclude that:

    “A vegetarian or low-fat diet and exercise,possibly helped along with fish oil or niacin, can help a highly motivated individual achieve an LDL under 70.”

    Do you agree that the above statement gives the impression that all folks really have to do to be healthy and heart attack proof is to get off the couch and switch from fatty to leaner meats?

    I wonder if others agree with me that that statement is highly misleading.

  2. Dr. Greger, I would appreciate your insight into my situation. I have been following a strict whole food plant-based diet since attending the NAVS summerfest – no sugars, animal products of any type, refined flour, processed foods, added oils, etc. – and I’ve been doing an hour of cardio exercise 3 times a week. My doctor was thrilled with my initiative, and took me off Zocor to see what my new baseline cholesterol levels would be. After 2 months on this diet and no meds, my total cholesterol is 246 (was 135 with meds), LDL went from 52 to 148, and triglycerides went from 131 to 239. I have oatmeal with ground flax seed each morning. What is going on? I’m very disappointed.

  3. Hi Maria, have you seen these other nutrition facts videos?
    This one suggests some foods that can help lower cholesterol: http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/new-cholesterol-fighters/
    This one suggests that a whole foods vegan diet is better than a low fat vegan diet for reducing cholesterol: http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/low-fat-or-whole-food/
    Here Dr. Greger notes the cholesterol lowering power of avocados: http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/are-avocadoes-good-for-you/
    Here he suggests cocoa powder (I add it to smoothies): http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/cocoa-good-chocolate-bad/
    My take on all this: make sure you’re getting plenty of good fats from whole plant foods, particularly nuts and avocados.
    Also, consider adding some resistance training to your workout routine, as it is better than cardio for reducing body fat, which will have a favorable effect on your cholesterol. Note I’m not saying do resistance instead of cardio, but rather in addition.
    Good luck!

    1. “Good fats” is a misnomer. There are only 2 essential fatty acids – Omega 6 and 3, and the ratio should be under 3:1. The body can manufacture ALL the other fatty acids as needed. Avocados are 75% fat with an Omega 6:3 ratio of 15:1. Nuts too are very high fat and handfuls are harmful if you have a cholesterol problem. The only 2 studies showing actual reversal of heart disease was a very low fat diet – less than 10% fat (Ornish and Esselstyn). Dr. Esselstyn allows no nuts or avocados for is heart patients.

  4. Thanks for your input, Amber. I have watched the other videos. My diet has been strictly plant based – mostly raw and including nuts. In addition to the cardio, I do 30-45 minutes of weight bearing exercise 3 times a week. I may just be one of those people who overproduces cholesterol. But I’m still sticking with it.

  5. I’m a bit confused with the units used. Here in Canada we use mmol/l. My LDL is 2.22 mmol/l. I used a conversion program and that gives 85 mg/dl. My total serum cholesterol is 3.52 mmol/l or – still with the conversion program – 136.

  6. I wonder what the situation is insofar as ‘ghee’ (as prepared in Indian homes from cow’s milk) is concerned. Is it saturated, mono-unsaturated? good for arterial health or bad? there are ayurvedic physicians who swear by it and prescribe it for various disorders and i know of at least one Indian cardiologist who openly advocates its consumption by patients with CVD for its treatment and prevention. Dr Greger can you point me to some articles that can clarify this issue? Since i’ve not seen any videos from you about ghee, have you given it some thought?

  7. I have been vegan for almost 2 years now and really mostly eat whole foods. I am not really into vegan meats or cheese. My total cholesterol is 146 mg/dl, whereas the LDL is 79. The HDL/LDL quote is 1.52. Do I need to be worried about my LDL? Thanks in advance.

  8. Do liver and Gallbladder flushes actually work? I have gallstones and was recommended to do a flush including drinking apple juice for 6 days before consuming epsom salts, olive oil and grapefruit juice to flush out my gallstones. Help!!! Does this work???

  9. I have been WFPB no SOS for 2 years. My cholesterol (195) HDL 35), triglycerides (152) and LDL (128) are within “normal ranges”. I just can’t seem to get my numbers any lower. I had my gallbladder removed about 6 years ago and I am wondering if not having a gallbladder can interfere with my lipid numbers.

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