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
Amy White MS HNC
I am a holistic nutrition counselor and believe real food is the true path to wellness. If you are interested in learning more about me and how I can help you, please see my story.
Facebook Fan Page!
Tagsaddiction Autoimmune Disease Bacon Beef Stew body weight breakfast Cleanse Coconut Coconut Oil collagen Cortisol cravings Dehydrator Detox Exercise Fat Fermented Apple Sauce Fiber Fruit Gluten GMO Health Insulin Interval Training ketogenic Leptin Low Carb Minerals Monsanto nightshades Obesity Organic Paleo Primal Protein Skinny on Obesity stress Sugar supplements The Skinny on Obesity thyroid Vegetables Video Vitamins Westin A Price