Cholesterol Clarity-What The HDL Is Wrong With My Numbers #SANE

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Jonathon: Hey everyone, welcome back. This is actually the fourth time I’ve tried to record the intro for this show, because I am literally on the edge of my seat, excited. Not only because today’s guest has a wonderful new book coming out, but just because of today’s guest. We’ve talked about this before, because he’s been on the show before, but today’s guest is — there are very few people in the world, which when I meet them — and I have had the opportunity to meet this individual — that I literally felt compelled — like, my rational brain wasn’t even there; it’s just my animal brain — to hug him.

Because he, not only for me personally but just for the community as a whole, is a ray of light, is the change we want to see in the world and has put in well over 10,000 hours just saying, “Hey, here are things that are helping me. I think they can help you,” never asking for anything in return. Now we have such an amazing opportunity to help pay it back, but also get a bunch back from him supporting his new book, which is awesome, Cholesterol Clarity: What the HDL is Wrong with My Numbers? The author, the host of the Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb show, the man, Jimmy Moore. Welcome, brother.

Jimmy: Who is this guy you’re talking about, Jonathon?

Jonathon: It’s James Moore.

Jimmy: Yeah, Momma only called me that when I was bad growing up, so …

Jonathon: Well then, we can’t call you James now, because Jimmy, you are doing a lot of good stuff, specifically with this new book, which I know so many people in the community are happy that we have the opportunity now to pay back to you what you’ve paid back to us. Again — but we’re not being altruistic here, because this book has a massive amount of potentially life-saving information in it, correct?

Jimmy: Yeah, that was the hope. You know, I have been out there many years doing the podcasts, and I kept hearing the same arguments over and over again, Jonathon. Oh, you know all that saturated fat’s going to clog your arteries. It’s going to raise your cholesterol, and that in and of itself needs a statin drug to bring it down, and low-fat diet, and this and that and this. I’m going, “Why hasn’t anybody ever written a book that addresses this?”

There has been lots of great information online, and there was a really great book that came out last year by Bowden and Sinatra called The Great Cholesterol Myth, which I loved, but their perspective came at it from the angle of, look, cholesterol doesn’t matter, so move on with your life. While I may agree with that, and I definitely do, there are people who are still worried about the cholesterol. So why not write a book that not only takes that position and explains that position in a methodical way, which is what we try to do with each chapter. Hopefully as you read it, you sensed that we were kind of building upon this sordid tale we have to unravel. But then at the end of the book, we also say, “Okay look, if you’re still worried about numbers, here are the ones you should be shooting for, and they’re probably going to be a lot different than what you’ve heard your doctor talk about.”

Jonathon: I really appreciate that approach, Jimmy, because cholesterol is — it’s just like the word isn’t going to go away right? Like, you have to go to people where they’re at. I don’t care who you are, on some level, that word has just been said so much, and it will continue to be said, right? There are tens of billions of dollars supporting that word being in the forefront of our minds. So you coming on the surface and adding clarity to the numbers aren’t going to go away. Here’s at least how to look at them, is a great service. The book called Cholesterol Clarity does just that. How are you clarifying cholesterol in this book, Jimmy?

Jimmy: Yeah, it’s traditionally been looked at in pretty much a monolithic way. Here it is. You go to your doctor. You get your cholesterol test results back. In fact, I’ll tell you exactly what happened to me, Jonathon, back in — after 2004, after I lost all that weight. We’ve talked about it in previous interviews. I went for a checkup. I went and I had my cholesterol run, I got the results back and I was real excited to go talk to my doctor about it because my HDL was over 70. My triglycerides were under 50. I had LDL that was — I want to say 175, something like that, and then total cholesterol was 285.

But I knew from even the little bit I knew at that time those HDL and triglyceride numbers were incredible, so I said, “Man, aren’t these numbers great?” The doctor said, “No, they’re not. You need to be on a statin drug as soon as possible.” I had been on one before and gave me really bad side effects, and I did not want to do that again. So I said, “But what about HDL? You know, it’s really good at 72, right?” He said, “Oh yeah, it’s really good. Take a statin.” I said, “Okay, but what about triglycerides are 42. Isn’t that unbelievably good heart health?” “Yes, that’s an amazing number. I haven’t really seen that from many patients. Take a statin.” I said to myself at that point, doctors really are clueless when it comes to cholesterol, because everything is predicated on that LDLC which, by the way, is a calculated number, not an absolute number. It’s calculated, so why are we basing treatment on a calculated number? Then number two, total cholesterol.

So between total cholesterol and LDL, we’ve been led down this road — this pathway — that pretty much makes statin drugs look like the hero. A low-fat diet and drinking vegetable oil look like the hero because those things are known to lower LDL and total cholesterol, but what they don’t tell you is there are unintended consequences to doing those things.

Jonathon: Jimmy, correct me if I’m wrong. Obviously, you worked with Eric Westman, who’s one of the leaders in the industry, as well as, I believe, like 27 or 28 other top experts, so this isn’t just like Jimmy Moore’s thoughts.

Jimmy: No.

Jonathon: My impression also, in reviewing thousands and thousands of studies, is — Jimmy, this isn’t controversial. Like if you actually look at the data and you look at the biochemical pathways, this is quite clear at this point. So how can there be MDs — prominent MDs — out there saying things which are like saying the earth is flat, at this point, when it comes to cholesterol?

Jimmy: You know what? There are two separate things going on here. The science is very clear. There’s no controversy in the science, and I’ve heard Dr. Richard Feinman say that many times. The controversy isn’t in the science; it’s in the culture. It’s in how we have been led down this path. The reason that cholesterol continues to be looked at as an ugly villain is because there’s a lot of money at stake. A $29 billion industry alone is all the statin drugs are. Never mind all these low-fat products that are put on the shelf and healthy whole grains promoted — lower your cholesterol; eat Cheerios. All these kinds of messages — whole industries have been built around this whole cholesterol nonsense that’s been put out there. So to unravel that and to say, “Oops, we were wrong,” is going to take a whole lot.

Hopefully, this book kind of helps push us in the right direction. That is definitely the hope and dream that maybe a doctor will read this and go, “Dang, I never learned this in medical school,” because unfortunately — you know, you’ve interviewed them too — they don’t get but maybe one or two weeks of nutrition in medical school. Why are they telling us how to eat with one to two? I can go to a community college and take a nutrition course and know more than most doctors.

Jonathon: It is shocking, Jimmy, because there’s no, like when — and again, the Harvard Medical School. Obviously, I know there are some disagreements between like the way they recommend eating and the way you and I recommend eating. But like, when the Harvard School of Public Health repeatedly says in the Journal of the American Medical Association there is no relationship between LDL and anything relevant. Then you read books and you hear podcasts with well-respected people and organizations saying the exact opposite. It almost seems irresponsible at some point. I don’t know. It gets me a little riled up.

Jimmy: Well, and it seems like all the major health groups have rallied behind each other. In fact, chapter three we go into that. I know people are going to say, “Well, don’t all the major health groups say the same thing about cholesterol?” Isn’t it funny they all come to the exact same conclusion, and it’s exactly wrong? You know, from the American Medical Association to the American Diabetes Association to the Mayo Clinic, these are all like the groups when you look at who is talking about health from an authoritative position in America and, quite frankly, around the world. They’re all saying, “No more than seven percent of your diet should be saturated fat. You need lots of healthy, whole grains.” All of these same messages and that, “Blood cholesterol levels are going to go up if you consume saturated fat and cholesterol,” which, by the way, nothing has every shown that.

It’s craziness, and I think putting the onus back on them to prove what they’re saying is a good tactic as well as at the same time, let’s educate the public on what really matters, and it’s not LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol.

Jonathon: Jimmy, could part of the confusion, for lack of better terms, be because there is a diversity of cholesterol-related numbers which are healthy. For example — correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe you are of the impression that someone could eat a vegetarian diet that is quite healthy.

Jimmy: Yes.

Jonathon: That would result in a much different cholesterol profile than someone who ate a more animal-product but high-quality, nutrient-dense — more like a paleo or lower-carb — diet. They would result in very different cholesterol profiles, both of which may be healthy.

Jimmy: Right. I think once you zero-in on what’s most important — and it’s chapter ten we kind of talk about that one — the forgotten and ignored parts of your cholesterol panel. The ones that my doctor just totally ignored were the triglycerides and HDL. I think if you get that triglyceride number to go below 100 and you get your HDL level to get above 50, you’re pretty much going to be at a lower risk of heart disease. So, those are really great numbers to look at.

Now, a lot of people like to obsess about every little number. I get them all the time in my email, Jonathon, “Oh my gosh, my HDL is 72, but my LDL and total cholesterol are way out of whack.” In fact, I was just talking to a guy here locally in South Carolina the other day about his numbers. He said, “Yeah, I was taking a statin. I was listening to your podcast, and I decided you know what, I’m going to try to give them up. It was 140, was my total cholesterol before. Now it shot up really, really high.” I’m like, “Where did it go to?” He said, “All the way to 210.” I said, “That’s not high. That’s actually extremely normal.”

It’s just this whole mentality of total cholesterol and LDL that’s been so drilled into people — if they even pay attention at all — that we have to kind of shift their paradigm, shift their thinking, that it’s not all about those numbers. There are other numbers that kind of come into play, and we haven’t even talked about maybe measuring your blood sugar. That might be a better thing. If you like seeing numbers move, let’s look at blood sugar. Let’s see what that’s doing after you eat meals. Let’s see what that’s doing first thing in the morning when you wake up.

A lot of my experts — and I interviewed 29 of them for this book, as well as my co-author, Dr. Eric Westman, so 30 total bona fide experts — and every single one of them said, “You know, cholesterol really isn’t the be-all, end-all. Let’s start looking at some other things. Inflammation markers, blood sugar — those are much more important and much more indicative of your state of health.”

Jonathon: Jimmy, one thing you do so well, and I appreciate your continued efforts to do this in the face of some pretty rude treatment is to say, “Hey, we can agree that these end points are pretty good, and the science is pretty clear. There is likely a diversity of paths from a dietary and from a lifestyle perspective to those end points.” What have you seen — obviously, I think most listeners are familiar with the way you have given yourself cholesterol clarity and improved your health. What are some other approaches you’ve seen be effective and enjoyable for people?

Jimmy: I mean literally, I think any approach that gets you off of the SAD diet, the processed foods. I mean, Little Debbie snack cakes were their own category of food for me when I was 410 pounds. Getting people on real food. I think if people just today — Jonathon, I know this is a big passion of yours as well. If they just switched over from all of those things that they think are food now — Hamburger Helper, potato chips, all the — Coca Cola — get off of those things and onto real foods, even if it’s an all-vegetarian, vegans’ type of food or even if it’s mostly a carnivorous diet.

I think there are many paths. The key is let’s get off the things we think are food, get on actual foods, and we’ll see so many of these chronic health problems go away. Yes, your cholesterol might even go up. Guess what? It’s not a big deal. Let’s look at other things, because at the end of the day, that’s what it’s really about is what is your health actually doing. It’s not what does this number on a piece of paper that came out of somebody’s head, as Dr. Cate Shanahan put in one of her quotes in my book. These are just things that came out of somebody’s head. It’s not, “Okay, you’re good if you’re at 199, but you’re bad if you’re at 201 total cholesterol.”

Jonathon: Jimmy, as we add clarity to the cholesterol arena — again, your book called Cholesterol Clarity — what are some others? You already mentioned two. If you could reiterate those, I would appreciate it. Two things we should — can and should — look for if we’re going to look for clarity in our cholesterol numbers. You talked about inflammation. You talked about other markers — blood sugar. So if we were to say there’s a top-five list of, if you like numbers, these are the ones you should look at the most.

Jimmy: Right. So yeah, we acknowledge in the book people are going to care about numbers. So if you care about numbers, let’s look at some numbers. Obviously, we’ve talked about triglycerides. That is a huge number. If that number is under 100, you’re doing a pretty darned good job of controlling your carbohydrate intake to the level that’s right for you. It’s going to differ from person to person, which is why when people write me, “How many carbs should I eat in a day,” I’m like, “Heck if I know. You have to figure that out.” For me personally, it’s right around 30 grams.

HDL cholesterol is another key marker. That’s the so-called “good” cholesterol. What you want is that number to be over 50, optimally over 70. I think I recently had minedone, Jonathon, and it was 79, was my HDL, which is really good. Then you look at the ratio between those two numbers, and you’re kind of looking for a one-to-one type of ratio. If you do that, your heart health risks are pretty much nil.

Inflammation — this is a key marker. So there are lots of ways to measure inflammation, but the best way — and we talk about this in the book — is a test called the hsCRP. That stands for high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, and that number needs to be optimally under 1. Mine personally is .55.

So that’s a really good one, and then if you want to look at cholesterol and LDL, you need to know the kind of LDL that’s floating around in your bloodstream. So there is a test called the NMR LipoProfile test, which will give you two key numbers, so this is four and five of your list of five you wanted.

The fourth number would be the LDLP number, and that’s your total number of LDL particles. People just think LDL is this one thing. It really isn’t. It’s really multifaceted. It’s a lot of different things, but to keep it simple, there’s big LDL, there’s little LDL. So all of that gives you your LDLP, the total number.

But the key one you want to pay attention to is the fifth one, and that’s the small LDLP number. That’s the small, dense LDL particles that are the most prone to heart disease. If you have inflammation, those are going to get behind the arterial wall. They’re going to cause problems.

There’s still debate about that in the community, and I acknowledge that in the book. I even have Dr. Thomas Dayspring as one of my guest experts in the book, and he is one of those people who think it’s all about the total particles. Then you have Dr. Ron Krauss, who’s probably the leading expert on, you know, lipids today. I was very fortunate to get him in the book, and he says it’s all about the size. So I mean, we kind of have a little bit of unclarity, I suppose, on ones that the science hasn’t been settled on, but we present both sides and let people decide for themselves which one they think is best.

Jonathon: Brilliant. We talked a bit, Jimmy, about the things we should avoid putting into our body, and there seems to be universal agreement along the baseline of processed garbage. Have you found things which we should go out of our way — like, pretty universally, if at all possible — to put into our body to help with these numbers?

Jimmy: Yeah, I like to call the garbage “processed carbage,” so there you go. Yes, you can use that. Yeah, I mean, we’re putting all these things in our mouths that are causing the numbers to go crazy, and really more so than the numbers going crazy is actual disease happening in the body. So instead of carbs, why do we keep focusing on putting something that we know is raising blood sugar, we know is raising triglycerides, we know is lowering HDL cholesterol, we know is making small LDL particles much more prevalent in our body? So instead of the carbs, let’s put something in our body that’s going to raise HDL, that’s going to make our LDL particles more of the large fluffy kind that we want, that’s going to make triglycerides drop like a rock. It’s going to be shocking to some people; obviously, not your audience, but people in the mainstream would be shocked if you say, “Eat more fat.”

Jonathon: Jimmy, get off my show!

Jimmy: It’s like The Calorie Myth, right? People are so scared to eat too many calories because they’re going to blah, blah, blah. You’re going to handle all that very well in your book, but saturated fat, man, is probably one of the most healthy things you could possibly put in your mouth. That shocks people because we have been told for so long, “Eating saturated fat is going to raise your cholesterol, and it’s going to lead to heart disease and give you a heart attack.” All these things.

That’s why we wrote this book first. You know, I personally wanted to write about ketogenic diets and high-fat, low-carb being awesome. The publisher’s like, “You know, you probably need to take care of that cholesterol issue first.” They were right, because this is going to be an issue that’s going to be controversial, again, not in the science, but in our culture. I see it all the time. I was getting a coffee the other day from Starbucks. I wanted a skinny latte without the skim milk; I wanted all heavy whipping cream. The girl looked at me and went, “Well, that’s a contradiction.” I said, “No. When you learn fat is not the problem, it’s not a contradiction,” and I left it at that.

Jonathon: Well played, sir. The thing that’s so profound — I’m glad you took the route you described, which is get the clarity around the numbers first, because people are going to focus on that. If you can get someone to say having your HDL be above 50 and having your triglycerides be below 100, you could then go in a laboratory setting and say for Homo sapiens — for our species — when they take in this substance, it causes X to happen to triglycerides and X to happen to HDL. That is not debatable. It can be studied. Like when you ingest carbohydrate, it raises blood sugar, by definition, or you’re diabetic. That’s just how the body works, so it seems like by laying this foundation, we can then say, “Biology isn’t a matter of opinion.” So if we agree on the end point — these markers — then we can just say, just like you would with pharmaceuticals, “When you put this into the body, into people, what does it do?” It seems like, for example, with saturated fat, that’s pretty easy to study and has been studied, right?

Jimmy: Yup. In fact, you were mentioning the Harvard School of Medicine. Walter Willett and Frank Hu and all those guys, I mean, that’s what they’ve been doing in recent years. The problem is, Jonathon, the mainstream media is just totally ignoring everything they’re saying and so it’s not penetrating our culture, which is why a book like Cholesterol Clarity: What the HDL is Wrong with My Numbers? — I’m hoping that catches people’s attention and they’re like, “What’s this about? I see he has a list of all these MDs and PhDs.” Hopefully, people — this is the kind of book I think that can penetrate the culture, that people will read it and go, “Okay, now I get it. Okay, why hasn’t anybody told me this before?”

Jonathon: Mm-hmm. Jimmy, is there any person that — for example, upon eating saturated fat, it’s my impression that Homo sapiens’ HDL goes up. Or that it will not go down. It seems like — is that true? Like, is it universal that when you, for example, eat saturated fat, it causes X for everybody, or is that variable?

Jimmy: Yeah, I can’t speak to, I suppose, if it happens to everybody. I can only speak to what happened for me, and I can tell you before I started eating more fat in my diet, my HDL was in the 20s. Eating a lot of saturated fat during my initial weight loss in 2004, it bumped up to 72 in less than a year. So there seems to be at least a correlation there, and I’ve heard it obviously anecdotally and repeated.

It’s one of the things that in study after study after study of people like Jeff Volek and my co-author, Eric Westman, they take a look at those things. HDL, guess what, tends to go up when you eat a high-fat, low-carb diet. It just does. I know the symbiosis between eating more fat and taking away carbs gives you that kind of double whammy of the HDL goes above the 50, the triglycerides drop below 100. It’s almost universal. I can’t say every single person that does it is necessarily going to see that same result, but I have yet to see anybody that tried it that didn’t see those numbers at least move in the right direction.

Jonathon: Folks, here’s why Jimmy Moore is so awesome. What I just heard you say and what you just demonstrated, Jimmy, is you’re like, “Okay, look at this. We can all agree that triglycerides below 100, good stuff. HDL above 50, good stuff. Inflammation, bad, so get your hsCRP test below 1. Now for me, Jimmy Moore, here’s how I did that, and I can prove that it worked this way for me. Here are my numbers documented over time. What’s important for you is that you get those numbers in a healthy place. It might work if you do the same thing as I, but what’s most important is that you are healthy and happy, not that you follow the Jimmy Moore way of doing things,” right?

Jimmy: Exactly. Please don’t follow me, because I didn’t get to be 400-plus pounds, Jonathon, for no good reason. I made some pretty bad choices earlier in my life, and they catch up to me. I’m in my early-40s now, arguably healthier now than I’ve ever been in my entire life, and yet, you look at my numbers on paper, and it looks like it’s the picture of oh my gosh, you’re about to keel over.

Yet, I’m trying to change that thinking because people have been so bamboozled by the heavy marketing — and this is something I don’t want people to miss — we have been heavily propagandized with these statin drugs. When you stop and think about it, they have the pharmaceutical reps go in, and they talk to your doctor directly. Do I have that access to go talk about what I know? No, but they do, and they go in there and they quote, unquote, educate your doctor.

Then you as the patient are sitting at home watching the Big Bang Theory, and you see a commercial for Lipitor. Go lower. Ask your doctor about Lipitor. So you dutifully go to your doctor, “My cholesterol is 220. Oh, I need to go lower.” So you ask your doctor. He says, “Why yes, I do. I even have some free samples for you.” So it’s this very salacious campaign. It’s not going anywhere anytime soon. What’s funny is the pharmaceutical companies sit in the background and say, “We’re not doing anything. The patient’s going in asking the doctor. The doctor’s giving the — so, we’re not involved,” and yet they’re heavily involved.

Jonathon: Folks, the book is called Cholesterol Clarity: What the HDL is Wrong with My Numbers? It comes out in the US August 27th, internationally September 15th. You know and love the author, Jimmy Moore. He has a wonderful show and podcast called Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb. He’s also a great person and a great man.

Jimmy, along the lines of being a great person and a great man, I know you live your life on purpose and you have a very clear vision, and you hope to leave a lasting legacy, which you’re clearly on path to do. With this book, specifically, Cholesterol Clarity, what is your wish? What is your wish that this book gives to people?

Jimmy: My dream and hope with this book, Jonathon, above all is to get people to think about something else. Because when you’ve been lied to and propagandized all these years — and I was one of them. You were one of them; we all were. We all fell for what we thought was true because conventional wisdom said XYZ. Let’s shift that a bit.

You know, if I can get people — it’s kind of like when Wheat Belly came out, and people were totally oblivious to what Dr. Davis shared in his great book about what the effects of wheat were. I’m hoping this is the Wheat Belly for cholesterol, that people start thinking about these things in new ways that they never thought about before. “Oh, I didn’t even know what triglycerides were. Well, now I do.” “I didn’t know HDL was so important, but now I do.” “I didn’t know there were varying levels of LDL cholesterol that you can measure as particles. Now I do.”

All of these things, I think, are going to open people’s eyes, and my grand hope is that some doctors and some people that are out there spewing the nonsense about cholesterol read this book, actually learn something and then spread that message to their spheres of influence. If that happens, Jonathon, I think this will have been a great success. I’m really excited about the book. — we actually have a website for it where people can learn more. It’s just really — I’m ready to get this book out there.

Jonathon: I love it, and August 27th folks, please, again, I’m going to make a personal request here because Jimmy has just done so much for me personally as well as for the community. Grab a copy of Cholesterol Clarity: — I’m confident it could help save your life — What the HDL is Wrong with My Numbers? Again,, Jimmy Moore, August 27th US, September 15th internationally.

Jimmy, thank you so much for putting this book together. I know it was a lot of work, and thank you so much for joining us today.

Jimmy: Thank you, Jonathon.

Jonathon: Folks, I hope you enjoyed today’s conversation as much as I did. Please remember, this week and every week after, eat smarter, exercise smarter — as Jimmy said, think about something else — and live better. Chat with you soon.

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