High cholesterol is a common concern for those starting a ketogenic diet so it’s no wonder it caught the curiosity of Dave Feldman when his lipid numbers climbed after starting a ketogenic diet to avoid the progression of type 2 diabetes. Along the way, he ran countless experiments on himself (called N1 experiments) to try to truly understand cholesterol and its role in our health and he became hooked on his quest for knowledge in the field of lipidology (the treatment of cholesterol). He shares all of that with us on his website Cholesterol Code, breaking down his research and challenging some of today’s conventional wisdom on cholesterol and lipidology.
How long have you been keto, and what influenced you to begin the keto lifestyle?
I’m about to hit four years this month. I initially became keto to avoid progression toward type 2 diabetes, as I saw my hemoglobin A1C was slowly climbing. Since then, I learned everything I could about it, with special emphasis on cholesterol given my lipid numbers spiked substantially after going on the diet. As an engineer, I spotted a pattern in the lipid system that’s very similar to distributed objects in networks. I’ve since learned quite a bit on the subject both through research and experimentation, which have revealed some very powerful data. With this new general theory, I’ve shifted around my cholesterol more than anyone else in the world without any drugs or special supplements of any kind.
Here are some highlights:
- In the first public presentation of my data, I arranged an experiment where I dropped my LDL-C by 73 mg/dL and LDL-P by 1115 nm/L in just three days.
- In a recent experiment, I dropped my LDL-C by 104 mg/dL in seven days from 207 to 103.
- I’ve had my LDL-C as high as 368 mg/dL.
- I’ve had my LDL-C as low as 98 mg/dL.
As an engineer you have a need to know how things work and why. What was the driving force behind your “Extreme Drop” experiment?
My extreme drop experiment is where I induced a 73 point drop in my LDL-C and a 1115 point drop in my LDL-P. Pretty quickly, I began to notice the less fat I ate, the higher my cholesterol climbed and thus, the more fat I ate, the further it fell. I wanted to understand why, which is what led me to the so called, “Lipid Energy Model” today, which suggests cholesterol is far more influenced by our energy metabolism than is typically believed today. You can read more about the experiment here.
When talking with others about keto and cholesterol, what are the most common misconceptions? How do you educate others about these misunderstandings?
It is a struggle for many to begin thinking of cholesterol markers as dynamic in the first place. This alone is a big challenge, even for those with very advanced knowledge of lipids–and it’s only the first step. This is why I try to put a lot of work into the communication of these concepts with animation and analogies, any way that can help open this door to the new thought process.
There are many misnomers in cholesterol understanding that will take lots of time to unwind, all you can do is touch on them as they arise.
What advice would you give people with high cholesterol looking to begin a ketogenic diet?
As always, I encourage everyone to research every major side. I’m less concerned about those who are still uncertain but learning daily than I am those who have made up their mind and feel there’s nothing more to bother learning about.
Many lipid panels and tests focus solely on total cholesterol. But there is much more to cholesterol than one number. What advice do you give people looking to interpret their lipid panel results?
Certainly I’ve come to realize just how powerful HDL cholesterol and triglycerides are when assessing the risk. In every study I’ve found to date that includes a stratification of high HDL and low triglycerides, LDL is nearly irrelevant for heart disease risk, even when extremely high. As always, my opinion will change with the data, but the data seems pretty striking at the moment.
What has been the biggest takeaway from your N1 experiments? Do you have any plans for future research?
It’s far too challenging to isolate a single takeaway. But if you twisted my arm into choosing just one, it’s the overwhelming evidence of just how dynamic these systems are. In fact, in one of my most recent experiments, I moved my LDL from 296 to 83 in just seven days. Thus, with this in mind, it’s hard for me to imagine prescribing a lifelong therapy from a single cholesterol result.
Do you track your macros for your keto diet?
I take pictures of everything I ingest since November 2015. This provides an auditable trail that can be independently verified. Macros are tracked mainly within experiments, but the photos can always be backtracked to an accurate accounting.
Do you track your ketones, if so how often?
Yes, I get ketone measurements at least every morning, and sometimes several times during the day depending on the experiment.
What are your five biggest tips for those looking to live a ketogenic lifestyle?
- If you’re sick, stalling in weight loss, or have any problem you can’t figure out, your first step should be tracking your food. I require it of everyone I work with, and 80% of the time, this one step leads them to figure out the problem without any further help from me.
- Never stop learning! Keep actively reading about your health so you can stay vigilant on keeping it.
- Don’t underestimate bad social influences on your eating habits. They may be friends and/or family who mean the best by you, but they also aren’t on the same healthy journey you’re on. Build a support network of like-minded friends who share your interest in making this work.
- Always remember your most important meter: how you feel! No device can replace that detector, yet many will endure feeling terrible in the assumption the numbers always matter more.
- Always give back. Remember the people who helped you get to the place you needed to be–now become one of them.
What is your favorite keto recipe?
It’s my own keto pizza.
- 3 tbsp psyllium husk
- 2 oz cream cheese
- 9 eggs
Blend ingredients together and pour into a pan (9x13in) for the crust. Let it sit for 10 minutes, then bake in a 425°F oven until it’s as brown as a paper bag, about 30 to 40 minutes. Then, top as normal and briefly broil to melt the cheese (I use Rao sauce, as it is low carb)
How do you handle the articles and interviews negatively portraying keto and claiming it’s unsafe or unhealthy?
I listen. Maybe they have something new to say I hadn’t thought of. As always, I try to be a good scientist and keep my ears open.
If you’re interested in more of Dave’s theories and experiments, watch his presentation from Low Carb Breckenridge here.