Side Effects of Low Carb Diets: TSH, LDL, Dry Eyes

Here are a few things to watch out for that I learned the hard way.

Low carb diets can cause:

(1) Dry Eyes – [more].

Tears, saliva, and mucus of the sinuses, airways, and gastrointestinal tract are all comprised substantially of glycoproteins called mucins. Mucins are primarily composed of sugar; they typically have a number of large sugar chains bound to a protein backbone. If, for whatever reason, mucin production were halted for lack of glucose, we would have no tears, no saliva and no gastrointestinal or airway mucus.

(2) High LDL – which you may or may not consider a problem [more]

(3) High TSH – which may be a good thing [more]

“Reduced thyroid levels (TSH levels above 5), for a lean individual following a low-carb diet, may be normal and healthy!”

More side effects here.


No Coconut does NOT have Cholesterol.

Cholesterol is an animal product. Plants do not contain cholesterol except in trace amounts. This includes coconut.

But my doctor said coconut is high in cholesterol and I must avoid it to reduce my risk of heart disease.

It is possible he is misinformed or you misunderstood. Coconut is high in saturated fat. Saturated fat is not the same thing as cholesterol.

Saturated fat, along with cholesterol, is frequently blamed for heart disease. Yes coconut is high in saturated fat. It even has more of the stuff than butter.

Fatty Acid Composition of Various Oils:

But let’s unpack that. The saturated fat in coconut oil is NOT the same as in animal fat (not that you should be running in fear from animal fat, but that’s another story).

Most of the saturated fat in coconut oil is in the form of medium-chain fatty acids which do not circulate in the bloodstream like other fats do, but rather are directly channeled to the liver where they are immediately converted into energy, thus avoiding fat buildups.

Note also that almost 50% of the fatty acid content of coconut oil is lauric acid which is a main component of human breast milk. Another 7% of the fatty acids are capric acid which stimulates anti-viral activity in the body.

If coconut is so great, why did my doctor say to avoid it?

Coconuts have fallen victim to bad science which was helped along by the marketing efforts of competing products (in particular the soy oil and corn oil campaigns pushing the idea that coconut was healthy and their hydrogenated oils were).

Once upon a time, some very questionable research by a Dr. Ancel Keys was published which suggested that there was a correlation between saturated fat and heart disease. Watch this video for the background on how the data was cherry picked:

Keys was able to convince a sizable part of the US public that replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fat would reduce blood cholesterol and the incidence of coronary heart disease. Once this became widely accepted (despite protestations from many members of the scientific community) foods high in saturated fat got put on the blacklist including coconut and eggs.

It is increasingly accepted today that this advice was wrong and that these foods have been part of a healthy human diet for thousands of years. However beliefs die hard and old school doctors are unlikely to contravene the old prescriptions.

Coconut oil is, in fact, good for you. It has factors which strengthen the immune system and may even confer neurological benefits which may slow or prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s.

Dr. Stasha Gominak Discusses Sleep and Vitamin D

This lecture will knock your socks off…
(Notes below)


Writings by Dr. Gominak


  • We heal during sleep
  • Improving sleep quality heals many different conditions
  • It’s ability to heal exceeds the ability of most medicines
  • Growth hormone is released while you sleep
  • Body pain is associated with poor sleep
  • REM sleep is particularly important for healing
  • Sleep disorders have increased significantly since the onset of electric lighting
  • When sleep goes bad, we stop repairing out genetic weaknesses and injuries
  • Sleep shores up genetic weakness.
  • If you have a sleep disorder but don’t have the migraine gene, you won’t get migraines… something else will go wrong.
  • In her practice, every person who tested positive for poor sleep had low vitamin D levels.
  • Vitamin D is made by an interaction between sunlight and the cholesterol in your skin
  • When you reduce cholesterol levels – like with statins – you reduce your body’s ability to make vitamin D naturally.
  • When you add vitamin D to a skin cancer cell in a petri dish, it stops reproducing inappropriately.
  • Many inflammatory connections have vitamin D receptors including bone marrow components, all blood cells and platelets.
  • You still have to get the sleep better to make the effects of dosing with D obvious
  • Rats have a unique property of being able to use D2 from their diet therefore they do not need sunlight and can live nocturnally.
  • Humans, on the other hand, cannot process D2 (it can be toxic) and need sunlight or D3. Doctors still give out D2 for bone disease because of studies with rats.
  • Vitamin D is not a vitamin: it is a hormone.
    • Vitamin: My cell needs this chemical. I can’t make it. Therefore I need to get it from my environment.
    • Hormone: My body makes it. It is not in the environment.
  • Low Vitamin D associate with health issues in multiple areas of the body: metabolic syndrome, atherosclerosis, visceral adiposity, hypertension, hyperglycemia, diabetes, leg swelling.
  • Hypothesis: we’ve made statins in response to high cholesterol which is caused by vitamin D deficiency.
  • Hospitals are set up for the doctors convenience: we wake up our patients to do an x-ray, to take blood, to bathe them. It’s ridiculous: they are at the lowest ebb of their physical strength when they need sleep most and we are interrupting it. We need to protect their sleep.
  • What the right level to have normal sleep?
  • Humans can make 20,000 IU on our skin in 1-6 hours depending on our skin color.
  • People who are genetically made to live at the equator (dark skin) take a much longer time to make Vitamin D.
  • The daily recommended dose varies GREATLY depending on your genetics, where you live, the time of year and your lifestyle. The FDA dosage recommendation should be ignored.
  • Furthermore you cannot depend on the amount of Vitamin D in the pills because of poor regulation. What is stated on the label is often unreliable.
  • Too much Vitamin D IS toxic. The symptoms vary because the first problem is disturbed sleep and that can cascade to a very wide variety of problems.
  • D25 OH test optimum blood level is about 60-80 ng/ml.
  • MS is a vitamin D deficiency disorder
  • You need to take D3. D2 is NOT the same. D2 is toxic. Do not take it.
  • Co-factors: vitamins you may need to take with D3:
    • B12
    • Iron (IF there is a deficiency)
    • Magnesium
  • You have to be very careful with self-dosing. This is a hormone. If you get it wrong, it will screw you up.
  • Monitor you levels. Monitor you sleep.
  • Having correct D levels will not matter if your sleep is constantly interrupted for other reasons. It’s ultimately the sleep that confers health.

Sleep Apnea is associated with:

  • high blood pressure
  • heart disease
  • diabetes
  • stroke
  • obesity
  • daytime sleepiness
  • memory problems
  • depression
  • headache
  • fibromyalgia
  • fatigue

She frequently refers to a CPAP mask which is a device which delivers “Continuous positive airway pressure”.

How Gluten Free impaired my cholesterol numbers…

I recently did a lipid test and in one year, my ratio of Triglycerides/HDL has increased from 0.8 to 1.2.

The absolute number is not bad but the trend is poor.

I know this is directly a result of having more carbs in my diet. I went gluten free and in the process added more carbs than before. The carbs are in the form of rice, potatoes and gluten-free wheat subsitutes.

I was working a theory that possibly my body can tolerate carbs and it only has a problem with tolerating wheat.


Eliminating wheat has certainly improved many digestive problems I experienced. I now have less cramping (IBS) and reflux.

But my weight has crept up and my triglycerides jumped. This is quite upsetting. I am going to stay off wheat but, for me, it is back to a stricter low-carb regime.

26 May’11 24 May’12
HDL 68 67
LDL 156 147
Triglycerides 54 82
Total 234 230
Total Chol / HDL 3.44 3.43
Triglycerides / HDL 0.79 1.22
Age 46 47

High HDL, Low Triglycerides & Particle Count

The most popular post on this (largely dormant) blog is High Cholesterol – Low Triglycerides. A lot of people are trying to make sense out of their lipid scores and are looking for help.

The new gospel is that the most important thing to understand is what your cholesterol particle count is. If you know that, the rest of your lipid profile is almost irrelevant. Problem is, finding that out your particle count requires expensive NMR testing.

It is possible, however, to use the Triglyceride/HDL ratio as a rough estimate of particle count. If the ratio is >3 you are at high risk for lipid problems and should go for more testing. If the ratio is low, you can probably breath a sigh of relief (always with the caveat: there are some exceptions).

In this video, the clinician touches on this topic using a case study:

Yes, that is Gary Taubes sitting on the right.

Another great video on the subject can be found here: “Advanced Lipid Testing” Comes Alive . Registration is free.

The latter video does explain that, in rare cases, the high HDL, low triglyceride profile does not mean you are out of the woods. So the “poor man’s estimate” of risk is not foolproof. The only real way to know your risk is to find out your cholesterol particle count through an NMR profile.

Want to find out more? If you are prepared to do the heavy lifting on understanding cholesterol, then check out The Straight dope on cholesterol which is a 7 part expose on the facts and myths surrounding this highly misunderstood substance.

Drug companies working on ways to raise cholesterol

I have been awakened from my slumber by an article which has completely floored me.

On discovering, shock horror, that high HDL levels in men confer longevity, the drug companies saw a marketing opportunity (my highlights):

“It’s difficult to change HDL levels,” Barzilai said. Exercise might raise it a few points, but it isn’t a very efficient way to improve, he said. “We need to get a drug eventually.”

Merck and Roche are both working on an HDL raising drug, he told Reuters Health. Pfizer stopped its research into another such drug, torcetrapib, in 2006 because people taking it along with Lipitor in a study had a higher rate of death. – Reuters

Wow. Just wow.

It should also be noted that Total Cholesterol = Triglycerides + LDL + HDL so if HDL goes up, so will the total. And then they will be in a tizzy because the total is too high.

They didn’t bother to mention what the total cholesterol numbers were for these long lived men but I willing to bet they were at levels which would have Merck and Roche screaming for force feeding of statins.

PS: you don’t need drugs to boost your HDL.

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Men who reach their 85th birthdays tended to have high levels of good cholesterol while in their 60s, a new study says.

Researchers found that men with the highest good (HDL) cholesterol were 28 percent less likely to die before they reached 85, compared to men in the lowest HDL group.

This paper, published in the American Journal of Cardiology, adds to the evidence that HDL is important for a long life, said Dr. Nir Barzilai, who heads the Institute for Aging Research at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and was not part of the study.

However, “we always have to remember that it’s an association,” and it does not mean that having high HDL increases life span, he told Reuters Health.
About 12 million men suffered from heart disease and stroke in 2006, but high levels of HDL cholesterol may reduce the risks, according to the American Heart Association.

Low levels of HDL, less than 40 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) of blood for men, are known to increase the risk of heart disease, according to the heart association.

The researchers, from the Massachusetts Veterans Epidemiology and Research Information Center in Boston, looked at the medical records of about 650 veterans when they were around 65 years old, then grouped them based on HDL levels.

Starting with low levels of 40 mg/dL, they found that for each ten mg/dL increase of HDL, the men were 14 percent less likely to have died by 85. Overall, 375 survived to that age.

Also, fewer of the men with higher HDL were overweight, and they tended not to have more than 2 drinks a day. And fewer of them had heart disease or smoked, compared to the lowest HDL group.

These other factors might have had an effect on survival, Barzilai said. However, the researchers did account for this, and still showed a link between reaching 85 and high HDL levels, he told Reuters Health.
“It’s difficult to change HDL levels,” Barzilai said. Exercise might raise it a few points, but it isn’t a very efficient way to improve, he said. “We need to get a drug eventually.”

Merck and Roche are both working on an HDL raising drug, he told Reuters Health. Pfizer stopped its research into another such drug, torcetrapib, in 2006 because people taking it along with Lipitor in a study had a higher rate of death.

The B-vitamin niacin may raise HDL levels 15 to 35 percent. However, side effects can include liver damage and increased blood sugar, according to the Mayo Clinic.

A three-month supply costs about nine dollars. Niacin is also found in dairy products, lean meats, nuts, eggs and fish.

However, it’s unclear how much raising HDL will prevent heart disease, Barzilai said, so whether drugs might improve people’s health remains to be seen.

The study authors could not be reached by deadline.

SOURCE: The American Journal of Cardiology, online February 4, 2011.

High Cholesterol – Low Triglycerides

I recently got my lipids tested. Unfortunately I do not have access to detailed subfraction tests so I was only able to get the high level numbers.

I’ve been low-carbing for quite a while now. I’ve generally had good cholesterol figures so this would be telling for the increased consumption of fat in my diet.

The results, however, were a bit confusing:

Total cholesterol
  229 – high
54 – low


My total cholesterol number has climbed significantly over the past 2 years (it was ~170 before) which is a concern. However the low triglycerides with the high cholesterol figure gives contradictory risk indications for heart disease.

Now I’m aware that not all LDL are created equal but I wanted some definitive advice on this point (it wasn’t coming from my doctor who didn’t even remark on the triglyceride number).

In my searching, I found this interesting and succinct comment on the subject here which I am reprinting as it addresses my question directly:

LDL cholesterol can be broken down into two kinds, pattern A and pattern B. LDL pattern A is large fluffy particles that are less dense than pattern B and not easily oxidized. LDL pattern A is essentially benign with respect to heart disease. LDL pattern B on the other hand is small dense particles that are easily oxidized and more closely associated with heart disease. It has been theorized that the harm to the arteries is associated with oxidized cholesterol. Ok, enough about that. To summarize, LDL pattern B (think small dense BBs) is bad, LDL pattern A (light and fluffy) is not a problem.

Now you would think that the lab actually measured your LDL, but they likely didn’t. Most labs just calculate LDL from the following equation:

LDL = Total Cholesterol – HDL – triglycerides/5

So from this, you don’t know if you are predominately LDL pattern A (no big deal) or predominately LDL pattern B (much more risk). Some labs do have the capability to measure the LDL gradient and can determine your predominate LDL pattern type. However, there is another way. Studies have shown that there is a strong correlation between a low triglyceride/high HDL level and LDL pattern A (the non risky kind), and conversely, a high triglyceride/low HDL level is strongly associated with LDL pattern B (the harmful kind). This is one reason that high triglycerides alone are an independent risk factor for heart diease.

Ok, where am I going with this with respect to your situation. Other studies have shown that a high triglyceride/HDL ratio is the best indicator for heart disease risk (approximately 8x better at predicting heart disease risk than high total cholesterol alone). A triglyeride/HDL ratio of 5.0 is moderate risk and the higher the number, the higher the risk, while a ratio of <2.0 is very low risk.

From what I have just described, you can see that with your very low triglyceride level (<100) and moderately high HDL level (>50) you are at very low risk of heart disease. Also, your very low triglyceride level indicates that your LDL is predominately pattern A, the harmless kind. If you are still concerned, you can have your LDL gradient measured to determine your LDL pattern type.

I wouldn’t even remotely consider cholesterol lowering medications without knowing your LDL pattern type to see if there is any risk associated with your lipid levels because there are potential significant side effects (muscle damage, neurological damage, liver damage, even death – i.e. the Baycol recall) associated with many cholesterol lowering medications (statins in particular).

Oh, and I think that your low sugar, lower carbohydrate diet is the way to go to lower your risk of heart disease because of the positive effects it has on triglycerides and HDL.


Unfortunately the mystery man Alan does not provide any references however this is broadly in line with what I have read elsewhere. My triglyerides/HDL = 1.18 which suggests, according to Alan, that I am very low risk for heart disease.

I will, however, get my LDL gradient tested at the first opportunity.



Follow Up Here: How Gluten Free Impaired my Cholesterol Numbers


Ethical Quandary – Industry Money in Med Schools

Give your doctor a break, he doesn’t know he has been brainwashed:

In a first-year pharmacology class at Harvard Medical School, Matt Zerden grew wary as the professor promoted the benefits of cholesterol drugs and seemed to belittle a student who asked about side effects.

Mr. Zerden later discovered something by searching online that he began sharing with his classmates. The professor was not only a full-time member of the Harvard Medical faculty, but a paid consultant to 10 drug companies, including five makers of cholesterol treatments.

“I felt really violated,” Mr. Zerden, now a fourth-year student, recently recalled. “Here we have 160 open minds trying to learn the basics in a protected space, and the information he was giving wasn’t as pure as I think it should be.”

More – New York Times

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More Idiocy from the Towers of Wisdom

New Zealand – my favorite holiday destination – is a land of grass-fed cows.

That the cows are grass-fed is more of a convenience of climate (they don’t grow wheat here and to ship in grain is just too expensive to feed cattle) than the result of insightful design. But whatever. I’ll take my grass-fed beef however I can get it.

Despite being surrounded by all this grass-fed goodness, the powers that be still have their fair share of “conventional wisdom” to spoil the party…

Professor calls for tax on ‘poison’ butter

A top public health expert is calling for a health tax on butter, saying it’s “pure, natural poison” and as bad as cigarettes.

New Zealanders eat more butter per head than any other nationality and Auckland University epidemiologist Professor Rod Jackson says that’s why our cholesterol levels are also among the world’s highest.

“We have a health tax on alcohol and cigarettes and there should be a health tax on butter. It’s the most poisonous commonly consumed food in New Zealand. It’s about the purest form of saturated fat you can eat and it has no protein and no calcium. Butter has had all the good things taken out and just left the poison.”

Emphasis mine. Would someone please tell this man about CLA and, let’s see, Omega-3 fatty acid, vitamins E, A, beta-carotene…?


“That’s why our cholesterol levels are also among the world’s highest”

Really? And that’s a problem… why?

Well I just got back from the land of the Long White Cloud and there is no doubt that obesity is a problem (though no more than North America or the UK).

From this observation it’s easy to assume diabetes and cardiovascular disease are also rampant. I’m assuming that this professor is implying that cholesterol is the culprit for all this badness based on his public statements linking cholesterol and cardiovascular disease.

But given the massive amounts of bread and potatoes that the Kiwis are eating, it’s a bit presumptive to accuse butter of being the smoking gun.

As an aside: I would like to point out that this is the same place that barred a woman from immigrating because she was too fat.


On to a more sensible approach to butter: The Butter Tast Test – woman consumes 9 different varieties of this poison to give you the skinny on tasty fat.

Beurre – photo By LeChatMachine

The Bunnies are at it Again

It looks like just another “One More Reason to Drink Coffee” article…

A coffee with your doughnut could protect against Alzheimer’s disease

Coffee & Doughnuts by SliceA daily dose of caffeine blocks the disruptive effects of high cholesterol that scientists have linked to Alzheimer’s disease. A study in the open access publication, Journal of Neuroinflammation revealed that caffeine equivalent to just one cup of coffee a day could protect the blood-brain barrier (BBB) from damage that occurred with a high-fat diet.

The symbiotic relationship between coffee and donuts is proven!

Oh wait. It seems they are saying that the major problem with eating a donut is that it is high fat – not that you’ve just consumed 50g of sugar. Further, we are told that a high-fat diet damages the BBB. So how was this worked out?

In this study, researchers gave rabbits 3 mg caffeine each day – the equivalent of a daily cup of coffee for an average-sized person. The rabbits were fed a cholesterol-enriched diet during this time. After 12 weeks a number of laboratory tests showed that the BBB was significantly more intact in rabbits receiving a daily dose of caffeine.

Oh NOW I see. This isn’t about high-fat. It’s about cholesterol.

Hey why is my pet bunny eating cholesterol when he’s a herbivore?!? Isn’t it possible this means the results are totally irrelevant as far as omnivorous humans are concerned?

And if cholesterol is the evil here… what does it have to do with my doughnut? Are they starting to make those with lard again? Last I checked doughnuts were full of vegetable oil and hence “cholesterol free.”

Maybe they mean THIS donut…
Lady’s Brunch Burger
The Lady’s Brunch Burger – yes it is really called that

OK my bad. Some donuts, do have cholesterol (must be the eggs). So, you may want to choose, say, a Boston Kreme as your healthy cholesterol-free choice.


But I digress…

If I’m not mistaken, it was feeding cholesterol to rabbits which started this whole scare about dietary cholesterol in the first place. I admit I’m surprised that they keep feeding cholesterol to these animals given that the relevance of the research will always be disputed.

Personally I’m waiting for the study where they feed bamboo to lions and conclude that a high-fibre diet is bad for you.

So what’s the conclusion of bunnies on coffee and donuts?

High levels of cholesterol are a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, perhaps by compromising the protective nature of the blood-brain barrier. For the first time we have shown that chronic ingestion of caffeine protects the BBB from cholesterol-induced leakage.

A risk-factor or correlated?

This seems like one more dubious study hijacked to support the existing gospel on the evils of cholesterol and fat consumption. And the icing on the cake is sloppy presentation confusing high-fat with elevated dietary cholesterol.

Henceforth I propose that all such research should be presented to the killer rabbit before publication.

Killer Rabbit
Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The Vorpal Bunny lays waste to the unworthy.


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