When Vaishali came to see me, she was feeling quite good about herself. She had been diagnosed with high cholesterol about a year prior and had since reduced her consumption of dairy and fried food (she is vegetarian). She also stopped eating dinner and had lost 5-6kg as a result. She had also recently stopped taking her cholesterol medication. So, for the most part, it sounded promising.
But as the consultation went on, Vaishali admitted that she had stopped the medication that she was taking, without consulting a doctor. She had no idea what her cholesterol levels were now, even though she felt better. She knew that they were very high when she started, at just over 9mmol/l (normal is around 5.5mmol/l) and that she had been prescribed a high dose of Lipitor (20mg).
While I am not a fan of medication, this course of action was foolish at best and the first thing I had Vaishali do was a cholesterol test. As it happened, her cholesterol levels were still slightly elevated (6mmol/l) and we found that her HbA1C, the measure of how her blood sugar had been for the last three months, was also much higher than it should have been (8, as opposed to 5.5).
While a cholesterol level of six isn’t massive cause for concern (I regularly see patients lower this to normal with simple dietary changes), the fact that Vaishali’s sugars had been high too, meant that the excess cholesterol in her body was likely to behaving in a particularly harmful way. In short, it goes to oxidisation (think of a bicycle rusting) and the more oxidisation we have, the more damage we see inside the body.
And that’s why initial treatment centred around stabilising blood sugar (meals with lean protein like lentils, lots of vegetables and not more than a quarter of the plate as starchy carbohydrates). While missing dinner seemed like a good idea in the battle against bulge, it actually made her blood sugar woes worse. She was surprised that after four weeks of eating three “normal” meals a day, she has actually lost weight. She also had bags more energy and wasn’t losing her temper as much with her three kids.
One suggestion I had made to her than she swears by is adding half a teaspoon of cinnamon to her food. (It contains an ingredient called MCHP, which mimics the action of insulin, making it amazing for diabetics.) She had also incorporated foods like olive oil (2 tablespoons daily), oats (porridge for breakfast) and nuts (20 almonds) and found that her cholesterol level had come down to normal after just a month too.