So I’m sure many of you have heard the commercials on television about raising good cholesterol, lowering bad cholesterol, blah blah blah. My question is, what about NO cholesterol? As far as I can tell, my Soylent has 0g of cholesterol. Is this going to be bad for me over time?
All the dietary recommendations I’ve seen recommend that you should consume as little cholesterol as possible. Though your body needs cholesterol and having cholesterol levels that are too low is unhealthy, your body can synthesize it and, under normal healthy conditions, will maintain your cholesterol levels at a healthy level. Hence, it’s generally believed you don’t need dietary cholesterol, especially since dietary cholesterol might possibly be bad if consumed in excess.
The issue of good cholesterol and bad cholesterol is different. The idea is that you want to consume food that increases your high density lipoproteins (HDL, the good cholesterol) and decreases your low density lipoproteins (LDL, the bad cholesterol). The ratio of HDL to LDL cholesterol in your blood is used a common proxy for heart disease risk and there is a strong positive correlation between high levels of LDL (and correlative low levels of HDL) and incidence of heart disease. Usually when you read about some food being heart healthy, they usually just mean that it raises HDL and lowers LDL.
The HDL/LDL ratio is mainly a concern with different types of fats. The idea is that monounsaturated fats (MUF) improve the HDL/LDL ratio and saturated fats (SF) generally worsen it. There are certain types of SF that actually improve it too (such as lauric acid and stearic acid), but, since when you consume oils with SF they’ll have numerous SF acids and usually palmitic acid (which worsens HDL/LDL ratio) predominates, then this is why SF usually worsens HDL/LDL ratios. Additionally, though your body needs these numerous types of SF, it can synthesize them, and, for this reason, just like with dietary cholesterol, it is recommended that you consume as little saturated fat as possible.
In summary, it is recommended to get most of your fat from MUF, as little from SF as possible and consume the necessary amounts of Polyunsaturated Fat (PUF), since both Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are essential (your body can’t synthesize them). Though there is fierce debate on the risks of consuming SF (you can read the wikipedia article on this controversy), since there are no identifiable health risk to consuming a diet too low in SF and because your body can synthesize what types of SF it needs, it’s reasonable to follow this advice and consume a high MUF, low SF, low PUF diet.
Great post @JosephK. But when you talk about saturated fats, you are generally not talking about medium chain fatty acids, right? Or are they, according to you, as unnecessary for good as other types of saturated fats?
As I said, it definitely appears that certain types of fatty acids are healthier than others. It’s just that when you eat them in food or oils, you get both the healthy ones and the unhealthy ones. The most common SF acid is Palmitic Acid, which is considered to be really unhealthy. So, if you were to consume, like butter, you’d get quite a bit of Palmitic Acid (about 27% of its fat is palmitic). But it does vary from oil to oil. The USDA’s National Agricultural Library has detailed info on numerous foods, (http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/search/list), including a breakdown of the various lipids. You can see that, for example, though coconut oil is 86.5% saturated, only 8.2% of the fat is palmitic (16:0). Most of it is in those Medium Chain Fatty Acids (MCFA), especially Lauric Acid (12:0).
Whether Lauric acid and the other MCFAs (Caprylic Acid and Capric Acid) are healthy to consume in large amounts, I don’t know. Capric and Caprylic acids are considered to be anti-fungal and may help balance insulin levels. Consuming some of them might not be a bad idea. If you just want to get MCFAs alone you can supplement with Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT). Triglycerides are compounds of glycerol and fatty acid and MCTs contain MCFAs. MCTs have been associated with improved weight loss. You can find pure MCT oil, and some soylent users are using this as one of their fat sources.
Personally, I’m using a combo of coconut oil, olive oil, safflower oil and fish oil. I believe in diversifying my macronutrients (I have a mix of four different types of proteins and four different carbs). I’m keeping my SF to under 10% of my calories, though I’m getting over 40% of my calories from fats. I don’t know if this is ideal, but I explained why I did it above.
Big Problem with Soylent
Wow. Thanks so much for the information Joseph. That seem like a very comprehensive overview and now now only am I not really worried about getting no cholesterol but I can give people an intelligent response when they ask me about it, as I’m sure they will. I tell you, if nothing else in designing my own recipe I learned far more about nutrition than I thought I ever would. I too have opted to diversify my macros quite a bit, as it really provides a better balance of everything.
I would kind of like to see some references as well.
Tim Ferriss had an article on Soylent:
In the comments it talks about how cholesterol is vital, and low cholesterol can effect brain function. I haven’t done much reading yet, but this is something I am now concerned about, as my cholesterol has been plummeting since I have been on Soylent.
Here is an article on the subject:
The conclusions in the abstract of that article do not state that cholesterol levels are causing the cognitive effects they measured. They only state that they are seeing the two side by side. They also don’t mention anything about the cholesterol intake of the participants (maybe the full article does, I haven’t read it).
Those results are concerning and I would love to see a followup study. As it stands, I can’t see it as a clear call for action on dietary intake. The Soylent testers may actually be a useful followup to that study. As far as I know, the official formula contains zero cholesterol. If those cognitive effects are caused by cholesterol intake, we may see them in the Soylent test groups. They have been tracking cognitive performance.
The reasons I include some cholesterol in my formula are that men who consume more fat and cholesterol have higher total testosterone and men who eat low-fat diets have lower total testosterone.
To me, total testosterone levels are just as important as performance on cognitive measures and these researchers have found a pretty clear causal relationship. There is still the possibility of confounding factors, but after reading those two studies I feel the safe bet is to keep cholesterol in my diet.
These studies are also part of the reason I don’t consume a high-carb diet like the typical Soylent formula.
I found this write up to be a good explanation of cholesterol…how it works and why it SEEMS to be correlated with heart disease. Also, why saturated fat is important. It’s not a science article, but when this guy was posting (and I was frequenting this forum) he was big into the research on cholesterol and many people found his info to be helpful.
Agree @RVDowning the V1.4 thread probably not the best place for our cholesterol sub discussion… But I am very interested in the topic so thought I’d breath some life into an aptly named thread…
2011: 58 HDL, 164 LDL, 89 TRI -> 237 total
2012: 39 HDL, 56 LDL, 85 TRI -> 113 total
That’s a very impressive drop in total cholesterol! As noted by @horsfield the HDL does look a bit low.
Also interesting that this dietary change didn’t do much to budge the triglycerides… It seems they’re one of the biggest evils now (and unlike LDL can be directly measured…?) What can one do to lower the triglycerides? From my personal observation, exercise seems to be a good booster for HDL…
Soylent and VERY high cholesterol?
RVDowning just made the point that it’s the ratio of the cholesterol numbers that’s important. I remember reading something to that effect and I’m willing to believe him for the moment till I can do more reading. As far as his triglyceride numbers go anything under 150 is considered good. So his numbers in the upper 80s are not to shabby.
Yeah… one metric I didn’t write up (but was in my blood work) was the ratio of total to total to HDL…
I had the opposite problem, my total was high but also my HDL was high so doctors said “eh, you’re fine as long as the HDL is strong”… As it was described to me: LDL causes build up, HDL cleans it away… so they made it sound like the ratio was more important than the total… Still, I was a little stressed to see both going up 2 years in a row even though the HDL and ratios were great.