Can fasting improve your cholesterol?
I’ve been talking with more and more people who are concerned about their cholesterol. It often comes up when I ask them about their biggest health challenges.
High cholesterol might lead to heart disease.
Of course high cholesterol is a concern because it is associated with heart disease (leading to heart attack) and stroke.
This is thought to be due to the build-up of plaques from the so-called bad LDL types of cholesterol that inhibit blood flow.
So, if you have high cholesterol, I can understand your concern. So… What can you do?
How do you treat high cholesterol?
Hopefully you’ve been told that your first line of defense is to make lifestyle changes to support your overall health. This includes a healthy diet along with generally staying active.
You may already be familiar with the drug options like statins, bile-acid-binding resins, cholesterol absorption inhibitors and injectable medications. Unfortunately these are likely not getting to the root cause of the problem and, when you look at all-cause-mortality studies, you will find that you’re no better off than if you didn’t take them.
That is… artificially lowering your cholesterol does not reduce your risk of death, disease or poor health. In fact, you may be put at higher risk for other disease – like diabetes, cancer, cognitive disorders and cataracts – because you’re now blocking other important nutrients your body needs, like CoQ10 and vitamin K2.
If things like statins aren’t going to help then you can go back and ask:
What are diet and lifestyle changes?
Yet another good question. And this is something that is getting more confusing by the second as you are overloaded with (mis)information on the topic.
If you’re asked what this means, you may sum it up in two words:
Exercise and Diet
But what’s meant by exercise? I think this is misleading because most people think you have to run for hours a week or go to the gym and pump iron to exercise. I would say to forget about exercise and shift your mindset to simply moving your body and being active throughout your day.
Get up and move around at least every hour. Take a walk. Go up and down some stairs. Do some push ups. If you’re confined to your seat (driving, for example) you can tighten and loosen every muscle in your body.
What about diet? This is where I think we’re really going in the wrong direction. You hear about what you need to eat and take to be healthy.
But what if you did the opposite? That is…
What if you simply take a break from food and stop eating?
Fasting to the rescue…
Not so fast… I’ve been researching fasting for a while now and I haven’t seen a lot about fasting and cholesterol.
Why not? Well partly due to the fact that “high cholesterol” is not a disease (despite the way it seems with people acting like they are somehow sick if it’s out of “normal’ range.) Rather, cholesterol is simply a biomarker that we now use that, as mentioned above, can be associated with health outcomes – like disease, as well as mortality.
Fasting has so many benefits that I personally have a hard time thinking that it won’t help with cholesterol. But I’ll put my bias aside and dig into the research.
Before going further you may want to ask:
Will “high cholesterol” kill you?
You may be asking the wrong question… that is, instead of asking what will help with your cholesterol, shouldn’t you instead be looking at ways to reduce your risk for the things that may actually make you sick and even kill you?
Put another way… Nobody has reported to have died from “high cholesterol”, at least as far as I know!
Regardless, the “bad” LDL cholesterol is currently the conventional metric to measure risk for things like heart disease and stroke.
Fasting to reduce your risk for heart disease, stroke…
and lower your LDL cholesterol and your triglycerides
So. After initial reviews of the literature, there are studies showing that fasting not only lowers your risk for heart disease and stroke, but it also lowers your bad cholesterol and your triglycerides.
Here are the highlights:
- 25% drop in LDL after 8 weeks of alternate day fasting (ADF) [ref]
- 32% drop in triglycerides in the same study (where they also last weight without losing lean body mass – meaning they burned fat!)
What can you do?
Stop eating. And start fasting.
But first test your current cholesterol, triglycerides, and whatever you might want to measure (like your body fat percentage or waist circumference).
Then start small, say 13 hours of fasting daily for one week and progress from there.
After 3-4 months of fasting, get your blood tested again and see for yourself the changes that are happening.
That’s it. Based on the evidence, you should see your cholesterol and triglycerides drop.
Can you get help – from a coach or a course?
If you want help with your health in general and how to use fasting as a powerful tool to meet your health goals, just send me a message.
You can also check out our fasting challenge here.
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