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April 6, 2004

Meal Planning, Food and Diet, Other

Question from Chardon, Ohio, USA:

My doctor prescribed cholesterol lowering drugs years ago and the lowest my total cholesterol hovered around was 230. I would exercise but my cholesterol would not go any lower. So, here's what I did. A couple of months ago, I quit taking those drugs and quit eating eggs. I figure I ate eight eggs a week. I got one of those cholesterol testing kits last week, followed the directions, and got a total cholesterol of 164. This brings up the question, why didn't the doctor(s) ever suggest to me not to eat eggs to see if that would bring down my cholesterol? Or, maybe the question should be, are these cholesterol testing kits reliable? The kit I used was CholesTrak Home Cholesterol Test made by AccuTeck.

Answer:

I would be leery of a single value from a home cholesterol testing kit. There’s a range for acceptability on the home tests. However, if you have your blood tested at an approved reference lab, that is the most accurate way to evaluate your cholesterol. Not only should you have your total cholesterol, but you should have your Triglycerides, HDL-cholesterol (good cholesterol), and LDL-cholesterol (bad cholesterol) measured. The LDL-cholesterol and HDL-cholesterol are much more helpful for evaluating cardiovascular risk.

With regard to diet and cholesterol levels, I would say that most authoritative bodies would suggest diet modification as a first step in the treatment of elevated cholesterol levels. With that said, there are some limitations to diet management. First, cholesterol levels are determined by how much cholesterol you take in and how much cholesterol your body makes from precursors de novo in your body. Unfortunately, the de novo pathway is much more likely to be abnormal when cholesterol levels are elevated. At most diet can only decrease cholesterol levels 10-15 percent. Therefore, if you are much higher than this, and you are in a high-risk group for cardiovascular disease, medication use is appropriate in order to modify the risk.

JTL