Last updated on May 3rd, 2017
When I first began eating my low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) diet, and losing pounds and inches around the middle, I encountered the occasional nay-sayer — someone who was sure all that fat in my food was going to clog up my arteries and kill me dead, sooner rather than later.
I’ve escaped that fate for six years. Indeed, within a few months of starting my low-carb diet, I had significantly reduced my belly-fat, and my blood-pressure.
Those were powerful indicators that I was improving my odds of avoiding cardio-vascular disease and a heart-attack.
But a skeptic might say, “What about the globs of butter floating in your blood-stream? What about your cholesterol level? Are you even checking your cholesterol?”
Well, yes, I was — and I am — checking my cholesterol. For whatever it’s worth, I get a lipid panel and metabolic panel of blood tests done every year, and review the results with my doctor. I’ve decided to publish the results of those blood tests here on Life After Carbs. You’ll find them here, and there is also a link on the site’s main menu.
Cholesterol doesn’t seem to be a problem for me. It never has. I’ve never taken any medication to lower my cholesterol, and my doctor has been watching it for decades.
I don’t believe that total cholesterol level means much, but that certain other levels may. Granted, I’m no expert, but I can read. Triglycerides, the fat in our blood that comes from food and provides us with energy, should also be considered. The American Heart Association (“The Good and the Bad”) asserts that “a high triglyceride level combined with low HDL cholesterol or high LDL cholesterol is linked with fatty buildups in artery walls. This increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.” More specifically, the ratio of triglycerides to HDL (“good”) cholesterol has been shown to be a strong indicator of heart-disease. (See this study, and also this one. Also, see Volek and Phinney, The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living, Chapter 8.)
Basically, a higher blood triglyceride (TG) level after fasting, plus a lower HDLC level, correlates with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. A TG/ HDLC ratio of 3.5 or higher is thought to represent the danger zone.
six seven years of lipid data, I’ve calculated my TG/ HDLC ratios as follows:
2010 = 4.23 (148/35) [<- Data added on 4-28-17.]
2011 = 1.83 (66/36)
2012 = 1.48 (62/42)
2013 = 2.24 (83/37)
2015 = 2.72 (98/36)
2016 = 1.98 (87/44)
2017 = 2.11 (95/45)
The data for 2010 — the year before I began eating LCHF — comes from a paper copy of my test results that I have just retrieved from the doctor’s office (4-28-17).
By the standard of the TG/ HDLC ratio, I had a significant problem in 2010. However, on the lab report, the only lipid result flagged as outside the normal range was my HDLC, which was marked as low (the target being 40 mg/dL or higher). The TG/ HDLC ratio was not included. The only calculated ratio in the report is Total Cholesterol/ HDLC. For me, in 2010, that ratio was at the high end of normal at 4.6. (The cutoff is 5.0.)
More than once, I discussed strategies for raising my “good” cholesterol with my doctor. He usually recommended more exercise. Most likely, he did so in 2010.
Instead, in early 2011, I began eating a very low-carb diet. This doesn’t seem to have done much for my HDLC level, but it dramatically reduced my triglyceride level. Back in 2010, my TG level was just under the 150 cut-off. By 2011, despite the butter allegedly congealing in my veins, my TG level had dropped by more than 50%. This greatly improved the TG/ HDLC ratio, even though my “good” cholesterol improved only by a single point.
After 2011, it’s interesting that the highest ratios — the ones closest to the 3.5 cutoff — came in the blood tests done in November 2013 and January 2015. These followed years (2013 and 2014) in which I was less than perfect in following my LCHF diet, to the extent of gaining back 25 pounds!
I was still eating lower-carb for most days, and most meals, but not consistently enough to keep the fat off. Still, the ratio was not nearly as high as in my high-carb, low-fat year of 2010.
After I refocused my efforts on eating LCHF in 2015, my TG/HDLC ratio improved in the 2016 test. (And, yes, I lost weight again.)
Overall, for this one indicator of cardiovascular disease, it appears that my LCHF diet is doing me more good than harm, especially when I stick to it.
Would an LCFH diet work the same way for everyone? I don’t know.
My blood test results aren’t perfect. My HDLC level has often been too low, and my fasting blood glucose level too high. But do the test results show me at death’s door, as some fat-phobic types might expect? I can’t see it. As far as these tests show, I don’t think I’m even on death’s porch.
And, just for the record, butter doesn’t glob at 99 degrees.