Last week, Andy went for his 50 day / half way blood tests – to see how they compare to when he first started on the Tim Noakes eating plan. As you can see from the table we drew up below showing his main test results, there were a number of changes, most notably the significant increase in his LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. But what do these numbers actually mean, and how do we know if they’re good or bad? We sent Andy’s results to three of our resident doctors, to get their feedback and to help us better understand what’s going on.
We’ll also be posting feedback from Tim Noakes himself – so keep your eyes open for that blog update.
|Day 0||Day 50|
|S-Cholesterol||6.6 mmol/L||8.2 mmol/L|
|Triglycerides||0.94 mmol/L||1.19 mmol/L|
|HDL (good) Cholesterol||1.83 mmol/L||2.02 mmol/L|
|LDL (bad) Cholesterol||4.0 mmol/L||5.6 mmol/L|
|Non HDL Cholesterol||4.77 mmol/L||6.18 mmol/L|
|P-Glucose Fasting||4.9 mmol/L||5.4 mmol/L|
Without much further ado, here’s what our doctors had to say about Andy’s results:
For years we’ve been told that heart disease and stroke are caused by high cholesterol, and it seems logical. After all, many studies have been done where people with high cholesterol suffered from strokes, because the little balls of fat and blood-products clog up their blood-vessels. Recently however, we’ve also discovered that inflammation of the vessels plays a big role – as do your genes, levels of physical activity, diet, hormones and stress levels. In fact, there are a lot of new factors which we’ve discovered which may, or may not, contribute to your risk of having a stroke. And this is why we need to re-evaluate everything we thought we knew about the link between heart disease, stroke and high cholesterol.
A true scientist is able to look at something that has been assumed to be true, for example: “the earth is flat”, and ask the pertinent revolutionary question: “What if it isn’t?” Tim Noake’s book, the Real Meal Revolution, is just one such expression of an exciting revolution taking place across the medical field. Today, “functional medicine” and “integrative health” are challenging these old ways of thinking.
Will Andy’s cholesterol give him a stroke? It may, or it may not. On the up-side, he’s lost 6kg, he feels great, and his glucose is well-controlled. So, perhaps his genes count in his favour as well, and perhaps cholesterol isn’t the biggest enemy after all.
Dr Russell Thomson:
Andy’s cholesterol, both the HDL and LDL were elevated since the last blood tests 50 days ago. What’s interesting is that Andy has definitely increased his saturated fat intake, and as doctors we subconsciously still see the link between saturated fat and ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol. It is, however, impossible (there is no biochemical pathway) for humans to convert saturated fat into any cholesterol – a fact that is tough for us doctors to palate!
Two recent observations seem to add to the fact that Andy does not need to panic! Firstly, it’s been shown that cholesterol cannot permeate arteries or veins directly, and secondly the majority of Americans who go on to develop heart disease have low blood LDL-cholesterol. Unsurprisingly, his Triglyceride levels have stayed the same given the elimination of carbohydrates. What I’d like to hear back from Tim is which saturated fats Andy should be avoiding.
Dr Lynelle Hoeks:
This has been my anxiety all along with this eating plan – that cholesterol is going to fly up – and these results prove it. These levels are alarming if you think that this is only after 50 days. I say alarming because it goes against everything that I’ve been taught up until this point. I really feel that before embarking on an extreme eating plan like this, I’d personally want to know the long term effects before endorsing it. What is interesting is that Andy’s fasting glucose has also gone up, which indicates that this eating plan may in fact be detrimental to glucose control as well.
Professor Noakes says that high cholesterol does not increase your risk of cardiovascular incidents, so these results are not worrying. I would worry though if these were my blood results!
Of course, fats alone don’t make up your entire risk for cardiovascular events. So yes, looking at the relationship between fat intake and events in isolation may not cause alarm, but adding high cholesterol levels to other risk factors that you may not be able to control (such as your genetic make-up!) is surely not wise. In my view, any excessive eating plan isn’t good! Your diet should be one of moderation: be guided by your appetite, energy levels and weight. Remember, everyone is different, and there’s no single diet to suit everyone.
Please remember that it’s dangerous to start on any eating plan or diet before speaking to your doctor or dietician to find out if it’s suitable for you.