Shocking Blood Test Results

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Every chance I get I try to mention all of the amazing health benefits we’ve experienced since our switch to real food almost a year ago. Even though we started gradually transitioning our diets at the beginning of 2010 we still continue to notice new and wonderful ways it has affected our health. I just recently shared a detailed list of the changes we’ve experienced thus far, and today I have some even bigger news.

Annual Blood Test Results

I just had a long awaited meeting with my doctor to sit down and compare my blood test results from a physical that took place at the end of 2009 (before we made the switch to real food) to a physical I just had last month. I say it was long awaited because my insurance wouldn’t allow me to get another physical until it had been at least a year since the previous one. Once I finally got my hands on both sets of results I briefly attempted to make sense of the numbers, but realized I would need the expertise of my doctor.

Some numbers on my chart fluctuated only a little like my risk for diabetes, which of course went down, thanks to a slightly decreased glucose level (from 78 to 71, or a 9% decrease). My liver test also looked a little better than it did over a year ago, but it was already pretty normal to begin with. The shocker of all tests though was my cholesterol. And I am not talking about LDL (a.k.a. the “bad”) cholesterol because I have always been okay in that department. My LDL level barely even fluctuated 2 points. But the good cholesterol (the number you want to be high), which is also known as HDL, increased drastically over the last year. I think my doctor was even surprised. In late 2009 my HDL Cholesterol level was 52.9, and at the beginning of this year it jumped up to 79. That is almost a 50% increase!

What This Means

And while a big jump in numbers sounds impressive, it actually means something pretty exciting as well. An increase in HDL cholesterol means you have a decreased chance for heart disease, but listen to exactly how my doctor broke it down for me. If your HDL level is above 60 (which mine was NOT in 2009) then it is considered to be a “positive risk factor” when it comes to your cardiac risks. A level above 60 would essentially cancel out a “negative risk factor” like smoking cigarettes, for example. So as you can see in my case, consuming processed foods was basically equivalent to smoking (and eating real food) when it comes to having an increased risk for heart disease. Shocking, huh?

The Difference

There are also a few other things I want to mention about the timing of my original test. In late 2009 I was oblivious to the difference between real food and highly processed food, but I did THINK we were eating somewhat fairly healthy items (boy, was I wrong). You see we’ve always cooked a lot at home, avoided pre-made frozen dinners, and did our best to incorporate fruits and vegetables into each meal. We used to eat fast food on occasion, but it was never a regular occurrence for us. I did used to bake cookies a lot (from scratch), but it was not like we were eating them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner…they were reserved for an evening dessert. I was also training for a race at the time of my original test so there is no question that I was in good physical shape.

My absolute weakness at that time was definitely all of those refined ingredients like white (enriched) flour and white sugar. And it is not that I simply had sugar as a part of my diet it is the quantity in which it was consumed. When you are buying items that were made in some factory you usually don’t consider how much sugar they are adding (or salt or oil for that matter). And I promise that in some cases they are adding a lot more than you would if you were making it at home. And we are not just talking about Little Debbie Snacks, Fruit Loops, and soda pop (because I swear I NEVER bought those items!), we are simply talking about every day items like flavored yogurt, white sandwich bread, pre-made sauces, etc. So needless to say, I am even a little shocked that I would experience such a dramatic increase in my “good” cholesterol from our change in diet. Yet another good reason to believe in our new way of life and continue to march forward with it!

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49 comments to Shocking Blood Test Results

  • […] bandwagon to solve any health issues, the events that took place soon afterward were surprising. My HDL (a.k.a. the “good” cholesterol number that should be high) went up by 50%! My younger […]

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  • Shannon Fanelli

    ugh. Timely post for me. I just had my physical after about a year of real-food eating, but sadly I had opposite results. My ‘bad’ cholesterol skyrocketed. Of course my doctor blames it on the (raw)cheese, (real)butter, (whole)milk, and(pasture raised)beef. Her advice is to cut out all animal fats. I don’t think this is the right thing, but I don’t know what else to do. I know you are not a doctor and can’t give medical advice, but if you have any websites or other info to at least point me in the right direction I would be so thankful.

    • Erin

      @ Shannon Fanelli – Why not try getting a second opinion from a different doctor or seeing a dietitian? Im not saying you should hunt to find a new doctor until they tell you what you want to hear, but a new doctor/dietitian might see it from a different point of view since you would be a new patient. Just a thought.


    • Judy

      Shannon, I am not a doctor by any means… But even though I eat “clean” my cholesterol is still borderline. My HDL is great- 78 at last check in April. But my LDL is 113, which given my familial history, my doctor is displeased with. So… Here is what I am doing… Keep in mind that cholesterol is influenced by genetics, so what works for one, may not work for others.
      Cut back on the red meat, butter, and dairy. Try to eat more beans, oatmeal, and greens. Even just swapping out beef for chicken should help a little. I still eat butter, just less often. I try to sub Greek yogurt in recipes, or some coconut oil. Applesauce can work too.
      I totally love pasture raised organic beef, it is delicious- but I try to limit it to once a month. (Which is difficult!)
      I hope you find something that works for you! I know it can be frustrating.

    • Jess

      Hi Shannon, try reading a book ‘primal food’ by Nora Gedgaudus (sp?). I haven’t got my hands on the book yet but I saw a lecture by her. From what I understand, she has scientific research she can quote that suggests cholesterol is not as bad as we think. She also has diet suggestions for addressing some of these issues. Largely, a paleo based diet with lots of vegetables, small amounts of protein, and no grains or legumes. I don’t know the science behind it, but she was very convincing!

    • Rochelle

      I agree with what some of the other people suggested. I don’t think you need to cut out all animal fats, but you can cut down on them by substituting them with other options. For example, using olive oil or coconut oil instead of butter all the time. I’m not sure how much milk you drink, but if it’s a lot, you might want to try almond or oat milk (you can make your own fairly easily so that you don’t have to buy the pre-made kinds with all the preservatives and additives in them). And maybe try sticking to local, organic chicken and turkey most of the time instead of beef or pork. Some people are more susceptible to high cholesterol due to genetics and other risk factors, but I don’t think the answer is to start eating unnaturally low-fat (e.g., more processed) foods.

    • Graham

      Strongly recommend Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s, Eat To Live. Yes, eliminate all animal products–that includes all dairy. Also, eliminate any added oil from your diet. Dr. Caldwell Essylstyn, author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, also supports the same diet. On this diet my cholesterol dropped from 220 to 155 within two months. All meat is destructive to the endothelial lining of your arteries. A totally vegetarian diet has approximately 10% fat content, a healthy amount of fat to sustain life more than adequately.

      Here is a short read from Wikipedia:
      Endothelial dysfunction, or the loss of proper endothelial function, is a hallmark for vascular diseases, and is often regarded as a key early event in the development of atherosclerosis. Impaired endothelial function, causing hypertension and thrombosis, is often seen in patients with coronary artery disease, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, as well as in smokers. Endothelial dysfunction has also been shown to be predictive of future adverse cardiovascular events, and is also present in inflammatory disease such as rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus. One of the main mechanisms of endothelial dysfunction is the diminishing of nitric oxide, often due to high levels of asymmetric dimethylarginine, which interfere with the normal L-arginine-stimulated nitric oxide synthesis and so leads to hypertension.

    • April

      Have you seen the documentary “Forks Over Knives”? Check it out. After watching that I am starting to cut way back on dairy products and meat. (If you have Netflix it’s on there).

  • Amber

    We have been trying to transition to real food in the last couple of months. The biggest challenge was just eating at home really, as we are so used to eating out! The thing that has slipped me up the most at home though are premade sauces like teriyaki and sriacha. We eat vegetarian at home so we’ve been having lots of different whole grains and roasted vegetables and beans. So I have a couple questions – are bottle sauces ever okay? Are there any good brands? Both the teriyaki and sriacha have added sugar. Also, I noticed on our first shopping trip for real food that many things would be okay with the exception of one additive (usually citric acid). What is citric acid and is it okay?

  • Angela

    I’m interested in Amber’s question as well.

  • Cindy

    Amy Taylor, you said in your 10/13/14 post that citric acid was pretty benign. I looked it up and it’s made from mold growing on corn. I want to use it in sourdough bread to make it more tangy, but after reading that I’m not so sure. The bread recipe calls for 1/2 to 5/8 teaspoon. Will that small amount really make a difference in my healthy eating? Thanks!!!

    • Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

      Hi Cindy. I get your concerns…citric acid/mold/gmo corn but I honestly don’t know a good replacement for a sour dough starter. And, I don’t avoid something if the only additive/preservative is citric acid. That is my opinion and I’ve not found evidence that it is of concern unless you have severe reactions to sulfites. ~Amy

    • Lacey Eats World

      As a dieitian And foodie I am going to weigh in on this one.
      1. Mold is not inherently bad — blue cheese is delicious!
      2. Citric acid is just vitamin C. Seriously. That is the scientific name for it. So, consider this like adding OJ to your recipe without the sugar.

      Not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things.

  • Heather Angelo

    I wish my doctor had explained my good cholesterol that way to me! I have 80 and my LDL is slightly elevated but still in a normal range. All they said was I had high cholesterol and no explanation so my HDL being high I did not know was a great thing! Glad I read this!

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