I was going to put this post up later this week, but in light of the 60 minute segment on sugar last night I think this post is a perfect follow-up.

If you didn’t catch 60 minutes last night here it is:

So, you are probably wondering what “Cholesterol Success!” means. Well, it’s kind of my first success story – sort of. I spend just about all of my time reading about nutrition, health and wellness. I love it. If there were more hours in the day, I would read more. I love my classes. It’s all great. I also love my family and am constantly harassing them with my new-found knowledge.

My mother is 76 years old. She will be 77 in October. I think of her as a “young” 76. She’s constantly on the go. She’s a doer, always has been. She literally doesn’t sit down during a day until dinner time. We often compare her to a shark – constant motion. She is also, I think, pretty healthy. She is on blood pressure medicine (I just found this out), a very low dose and that’s it (I’ll be looking into the blood pressure thing next). She has had two health issues in the last few years. I’m happy to report that both are in the past and she is healthy and still running all over town.

In 2008 she was diagnosed with Ductal carcinoma in Situ (DCIS), a non-invasive form of breast cancer.

Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), or intraductal carcinoma, is breast cancer in the lining of the milk ducts that has not yet invaded nearby tissues. It may progress to invasive cancer if untreated. (source)

She was very lucky and was able to have the small “sick” piece of her breast removed. She did not have to have a mastectomy nor did she have to do chemo. As a matter of fact, shortly after her operation (a few weeks) I ended up dragging her around Europe with me on a 7 th grade school trip.

More recently, last August to be exact she had a bit of a scare due to an Embolism in her right lung. She had some lower back pain and pain in her right side. She thought maybe she had a kidney infection so she went to the doctor. She was feeling better while at the doctor so after taking some blood they sent her home only to call her later in the day to tell her to go directly to the ER. She’s fine and my family and I couldn’t be more grateful. After lots of tests and more tests, the doctors couldn’t find anything that might have caused the embolism. They were afraid it might have had something to do with her cancer, thankfully that doesn’t appear to be the case. It’s possible that it was caused from a long road trip my parents took. They were in the car for about 20 hours. They decided to drive straight through. No one is sure what the cause was but a blood clot in her leg from the car ride is a possibility.

O.k., so there you have it. Two big blips in my mother’s health over the last 76 years. Aside from the “blips”, there was one other thing that has been nagging her for the past 10 years or so. Her cholesterol. In 2009 her total cholesterol was at 209. Not bad. That was down from a much higher number. She worked really hard through diet and exercise to get her cholesterol down. Over the past 10 years that number has slowly crept up. She has never gone on a statin drug (thank goodness) but has instead tried to manage her cholesterol through diet.

Her doctor has continued to recommend a low-fat, “healthy” diet. What does that mean? I think if you are trying to bring your body back to health through diet you need a little more direction from your doctor than “eat a healthy diet”. I’m pretty sure the “healthy diet” recommended was low-fat, high fiber, lots of vegetables, no saturated fats, so vegetable oil, limited alcohol, lots of grains, and small amounts of lean meat. That is/was my mother’s diet. She eats tons of vegetables and tons of fruit very little meat but when she eats meat it’s usually chicken (boneless, skinless) or fish.

So, what has this “healthy diet” done for her cholesterol? Well, her last blood test looked like this:

  • Total Cholesterol 280
  • HDL 63 (this is good)
  • LDL 180
  • Triglycerides 170

Not great but not terribly alarming (to me). The bigger problem is that the numbers continued to go up regardless of her “healthy” diet. Cholesterol is important to the body. Here is an article about women with higher cholesterol living longer than women with lower cholesterol. While that is all great it is still frustrating to see the numbers increase when you think you are doing everything right.

My mother and I got to talking earlier this year and she mentioned that she was going in for a cholesterol test at the end of March. I suggested she look more closely at her diet and try and eliminate sugar and vegetable oil and add in healthy saturated fats. She had already given up alcohol but that didn’t seem to help. I continued to harp on the issue of sugar being the big evil, not saturated fat. She decided to drop the sugar and vegetable oil. The sugar was harder than the vegetable oil. As it turns out she was very addicted to sugar. I don’t think she really knew that until push came to shove and she had to stop eating it. She gave sugar up for lent. Her new diet was in place for a little over a month before she went in for her blood test.

Here are her results:

  • Total Cholesterol 210 (down from 280)
  • HDL 57 (not surprising since her total cholesterol came down so much – still good)
  • LDL 135 (down from 180)
  • Triglycerides 80 (down from 170)

WOW! That was only a month of watching her sugar. She still ate a lot of fruit and might want to limit that to only a serving or two a day but WOW.

It’s possible that her LDL number is in fact lower than what the test said. Once your triglycerides drop below 100 it screws up the equation they use to figure out LDL. The only way to get the true LDL number is to do a VAP test. Insurance doesn’t usually cover a VAP test and I don’t think it’s necessary.

My mom started reading all labels and was shocked by the amount of sugar in EVERYTHING. I mentioned that she had given up alcohol a while back to help reduce her cholesterol (not sure if this helped or not but it certainly couldn’t have hurt). She was substituting sparkling apple cider for the alcohol. Turns out the sparkling apple cider has 33 grams of sugar in one 8 oz. serving. YIPES! Let’s remember that 4 grams is a teaspoon and we aren’t really supposed to have more than 4 – 8 grams of added sugar at any one time. At the most the body can handle about 4-8 grams of added sugar 3 separate times during a day (4 is better than 8).

Here’s some information from the book, Suicide by Sugar, by Nancy Appleton, PhD

The U.S. Government began recording data about sugar consumption in 1966. In that year the average American ate 116 pounds of sugar. In 2009 when the book was written the average American ate 142 pounds of sugar. That is about ½ cup of sugar a day.

Nancy Appleton recommends no more than 2 teaspoons of added sugar two or three times per day. She believes a healthy body can handle (metabolize properly) about 2 teaspoons of added sugar at one time. Most of the reading I have done recommends only 1 teaspoon of added sugar at one time.

8 grams of sugar equals 2 teaspoons. If a food label lists more than 8 grams of sugar per serving you should only eat half a portion at one time. Look at the label, identify the grams of sugar per serving and adjust consumption accordingly.

Well, I’m feeling really good about the information I gave my Mom. I’m so impressed that she was able to remove most of the added sugar from her diet. A sugar addiction is a hard thing to kick. I know she missed her sweet treats because she told me that if her blood test came back with the same high numbers she was going right back to her sugary snacks. I know she is thrilled with her numbers but I’m also sure she is a bit disappointed that her N=1 experiment proved that sugar was not doing her body any good.

Way to go and keep it up!!

Eat Well, Feel Good, Have Fun

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8 Responses to Cholesterol Success!

  1. arlene Tuttle says:

    Thanks for this “article”. Proof positive about Your Mom’s results….Yes!! “way to go” You have again made me aware of sugar..sugar in all foods. I recall years ago there was a program showing how much sugar was put into baby foods.thus..starting them out seeking sugar..well unless we are aware..here we all are. Thanks for this reminder.And Pat..wonderful news!!

  2. Nanny says:

    Guess who was the most surprised? Sugar is past tense around here. All Amy’s hard work paid off for me. Now it’s my turn to keep up what we started. Thanks Amy for ‘pushing’.

    • Atugonza says:

      What you should do is have a liltte bit of something sweet every now and then. Don’t resist the urge, just cut down the proportion and only have it sometimes when you’re desperate. If you hold the cravings for too long, you will just end up cracking, which will result in binging on lollies and sugar in large amounts.You could always have a teaspoon of honey, it tastes yummy and gets rid of most of your sugar cravings Or you could carry around some sugar free chewing gum- it keeps your mouth busy and your breath clean, without the sugar Another option is those liltte sugar free jelly lollies called Jols’. They’re quite nice to pop in your mouth every now and then.Or you could have 2 squares of dark chocolate every night. Dark chocolate is full of antioxidants and not as fatty as milk chocolate which contains more dairy.Another option is to go for a short jog around the block. Exercise is known to help fight cravings. It gives you a sort of high’ as endorphins (happy chemicals) are released into your brain.Gooooodddluuuckkk ;D

  3. Pauline says:

    That is pretty amazing. It is such a hard thing to get a handle on cholesterol. Definitely going to be looking at the labels a lot more closely now and should provide me with the motivation to stop putting sugar in my cups of tea.

    • Omar says:

      Here are some distractions I use when i feel a adrpesete urge to binge. 1. make sure other people are around. even them just being there and knowing you cant freely access the kitchen / food helps.2. do not keep food in your room, and ensure binge’ food is kept at a minimum. if you are serious, perhaps you could literally ask your parents [if you live with them] to keep them in a locked cupboard if they feel its essential to have cake/chocolate/chips in the house.3. just WAIT. wait 10 minutes. wait 20 minutes. give yourself a time limit, because sometimes by that time your so frustrated that you havent given in to the urge that you dont want to binge [its unlikely, but test it.]4. have something to DO after you eat. have this prepared. if you plan to watch a movie, have the movie in sight as you are eating. it will remind you that you are not going to binge. if you are going to do schoolwork, have your diary in front of you. if you are going to do painting, have the paints out.5. ask yourself where you want to be in a year/month/week. Recover NOW. start your binge/purge free days NOW. you might think this will be the last time . remember last time you said that too? ACTUAL ACTIVITIES:- Have a shower. you cant eat in the shower.- do something that [usually] fully engages your mind. Crosswords, puzzles, assignments. have these out BEFORE you start eating.- change your environment.. get away from food completely. go for a walk somewhere. bike ride [ do not do this to COMPENSATE though]- craft. this helps me the most. paint, cross stitch, long stitch, work with canvases, soft pastels [use your hands, you cant eat if you are finger painting], collages, drawing, making cards- make things for the people you love. give you a purpose to not do it for 5 minutes and then go and binge.- if you are angry and frustrated, find something that you can do to get your anger out. Totem tennis, anyone?- call a friend or family member and talk- play an instrument- redecorate your room / wardrobe- chat to friends on the internetessentially, the most effective thing for you not bingeing will be the thing that fulfills the need that you would usually be filled by bingeing. eg. if you binge because you feel isolated, calling a friend will directly fill that need. call friend after friend if need be. if you binge because you feel rejected, call someone you feel accepted by. if you binge because you simply have the house to yourself, make sure you eat with people and have them stick around after the meal! if you binge because you feel worthless and dont feel that you should have eaten the meal, then do something that makes you feel worthwhile make things for friends, create something, do something productive that you can SEE you are doing something. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE:1. a list of people you can call when you feel like you want to binge. 2. a list of things you can do when you do want to binge.rate both of these activities and people: eg. Activity: Punching a pillow. Good For: releasing frustrations, initially taking my mind off bingeing.Activity: Doing an assignment / schoolwork. Good For: showing that i can achieve something. you really need to make sure you get yourself SUPPORT. no matter if you have been bingeing or struggling with eating disorders for a month or a year, you WILL continue to struggle until you empower yourself and decide that you do not want this life. if it helps write down a list of things you want from life. is bingeing included? er.. no. See a psyc. See family members. See friends. See a team. Art therapist, music therapist. REMEMBER THE 5 D’SDELAY your response so you can figure out what exactly is tempting you to binge.DETERMINE what’s going on. Ask yourself, “Why is my desire to eat so high right now? Am I physically hungry? If not, “what do I really want or need?”DISTRACT yourself for 10 minutes (WAIT).DISTANCE yourself, physically, from the temptation.DECIDE how you will handle it.- If you’re tired, take a nap. If you’re feeling lonely, call a friend. If you’re feeling anxious, go for a walk or take a bubble bath.- If you’re having a specific food craving, identify what you really want, go get a single HOW TO STOP FOOD CRAVINGS Craving chocolate? Eat a banana. It sometimes satisfies the yearning for chocolate and is much less fattening. Chew sugarless gum. It speeds up the digestive system, burning more calories, and sometimes kills a craving. Exercise! Your appetite will temporarily subside and you’ll feel better about taking such a proactive approach. Still craving chocolate? Try a magnesium supplement. Many women are deficient in this mineral, which is found in chocolate. Craving fatty foods? Eat fish, or take a fish oil or flaxseed oil supplement. You may be low in essential fatty acids. Grab something to drink. Sometimes, cravings for food are really thirst in disguise. Sweet tooth? Protein, fat and fiber keep blood sugar levels more even and help keep such cravings under control. Watch your caffeine intake. Caffeine seems to make sugar cravings worse. If your will power weakens at night, try leaving the lights on until the minute you go to bed. Dimmed lights tend to lower inhibitions. Turn off the lights in your kitchen and avoid hanging out there. Whew!!! It seems that I’ve gathered a lot of suggestions. I hope one or most of the lists of advices above help you.

      • amy says:

        Wow. I love this. I especially like the 5Ds. The one thing I disagree with is the sugarless gum. Artificial sweeteners make you crave sweets. I have always loved gum. One day I decided to stop. It was actually one of the easiest things I’ve ever given up.

  4. amy says:

    It’s sad to think you will have to leave sugar out of your tea. If you are able to eliminate added sugar from other parts of your diet you can probably have a teaspoon of sugar in your tea.

    • Tadeusz says:

      Hey, there.Craving sugar when you first wake up can be caused by a unmber of factors. Here’s a few to keep an eye out for and what to do about them.1) Don’t eat a large, sweet dessert before going to bed. This causes a sugar rush (even if you are tired enough to fall asleep without problems) that causes your body to sleep fitfully. When you do this, you’re exhausting yourself more throughout the night by fighting sleep. You never enter the REM stage of sleep and when you wake up your body knows from experience that sugar will give it the boost it needs. This causes you to overeat. What to do avoid sweet desserts at night such as Ice Creams, Cakes, PB J’s, sodas, even pretzels, chips, etc. It would be best to eat a light dinner instead of a heavy carb dinner, also so not a whole plate of pasta or mashed potatoes, etc. Have the heavy meal or dessert with lunch and eat something light for dinner and evening dessert. Fish, veggies, chicken, soup and eat something for dessert with natural sugars if you have a sweet tooth. A piece of fruit, fruit with a little honey drizzled on top, or some ricotta cheese with splenda and vanilla or banana or chocolate extract (they come in all flavors!)The natural sugars of fruit are slow released because of the fiber from that fruit and leave you feeling less hungry in the morning.2) Drink water when you first wake up. Often times we confuse hunger for thirst and when foods aren’t satisfying the hunger (because we are actually thirsty) we turn to sweets. Sweets are a drug to the brain and make us temporarily happy so we ignore the original hunger’ which is actually the need for water. Crazy bodies we have, huh?3) Cut back on the refined sugars throughout the day the more we have the more we want. ESPECIALLY sodas if you drink them even diet. The caffeine causes an energy boost the same as sugar and our body doesn’t know the difference between sugar and caffeine and is more likely to make us crave sweets for the energy if it is hooked on caffeine. Also, try whole grain pastas and bread and don’t get rid of the potatoes just cut back on them and fill up with veggies instead.4) The others here are correct you might have a form of Insulin Resistance (that shows in many forms) and if modifying the things above or cutting out sugars (but only the refined ones!! fruit is good for you!) doesn’t help chat with your doc. There may be something else going on.Also .without getting too personal .is this always or have you noticed it is near when you have PMS? Because, at least for me and most of my friends, the further away from our teenage years we get the crazier the symptoms get as far as wanting to eat anything not nailed down until we finally eat the right thing’ that we seem to be craving. For some of us that’s salt; for some sugar. For me anything, everything as long as its edible!! And, if that’s the case, that just takes will power because nothing going to stop it!! Good luck!!

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