Carol (Missy) Cohen MPH, CHHC

Why Isn’t My Diet Affecting My Cholesterol?

I have a good friend who was told that his cholesterol was high. He decided to try to avoid medications and approach the problem from a dietary viewpoint. He removed ALL sugars from his diet, including natural sugars such as honey, agave and maple syrup and ate a very healthy diet. He returned to the doctor 3 months later and his cholesterol had gone down a very disappointing 10 points.  He was upset, discouraged and very frustrated telling me this story but, as I shared with him, there is more to the story than just blood sugar and a healthy diet…

Eliminating his sugar was a great place to start. Why? Because triglycerides are one way that the body stores sugar that it does not need to be immediately be turned into energy and used up. As it turned out, this gentleman’s blood sugar was also high demonstrating that the sugar, or glucose molecules, were not crossing the cell membrane and being converted to energy. This occurs for a few reasons.

When a body experiences surges in blood sugar such as when we eat, it releases a hormone called insulin from the pancreas. In a healthy situation, insulin binds to receptors on the cell membranes and unlocks a door, if you will, to allow sugar to enter the cell. This sugar is then converted to a chemical that allows us to have energy. Sometimes, the key, in this case insulin, does not fit in the door properly and we cannot open the door so sugar cannot get in the cells.

I had explained this dynamic to my friend previously so he was all onboard to eliminate sweeteners and discovered other things that were sweet tasting to him such as sweet potatoes, carmelized onions and berries.

However, despite is healthy diet, his triglycerides and blood sugar did not go down. We had to dig a little deeper.

We took my friend through an elimination diet. For the more disciplined people, this can give you an amazing amount of information. Others do not have the patience for it and would prefer to take a lab test to know what is going on. You can actually order a food sensitivity test through Amazon.  This test costs about $200 and will give you information on 96 different foods based on a drop of blood obtained from a finger prick.

What we learned was that he reacted to quite a few different foods. He had previously eaten a diet that consisted of processed foods that he could just throw in the microwave for convenience and drank at least 2 diet sodas daily because he “was avoiding sugar.” What many do not realize, is some of the sweeteners in the diet sodas are essentially antibiotics, killing bacteria in our gut that helps us be healthy and maintain our ideal body weight. All of these behaviors were destroying his delicate gut lining and resulting in intestinal permeability or, in layman’s terms, leaky gut. Learning that he had multiple food sensitivities, which is different from food allergies, gave us the tools we needed to learn that his gut was being torn down.

When you develop leaky gut, things that don’t usually go into the bloodstream are found there. This includes materials that have been broken down from the bacteria that live in our gut. One such material is lipopolysaccharides which come from the outer membrane of some bacteria. When lipopolysaccharides enter the blood stream it stimulates inflammation which damages cell membranes. As cell membranes get destroyed, so do the insulin receptors. This means that less blood sugar is escorted into the cells and the blood sugar remains high even though the person is not consuming high amounts of sugar and their diet is not introducing sugars in other ways.

Medications always have side effects that may lead us to being on more medications with no real cure and no end in sight. If you would like help finding out what is causing your elevated cholesterol or high blood sugar, schedule a consult with me through

I look forward to helping you.


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