Walnut vs LDL Cholesterol

As previously discussed, cholesterol has been my downfall. The cause of the high LDL and low HDL has never been diagnosed. It's just been about changing the numbers to favor better heart health. Diet and drugs, drugs and diet.

The statin I was prescribed Atorvastatin (sold as Lipitor and generic) reduced the LDL, but they also significantly reduced my HDL. HDL, aka the good cholesterol, carry the LDL plaque to the liver for disposal. Worst of all for me the common side effects of fatigue, joint and muscle pain. I'm convinced, but I have no data to prove it, that despite a winter of base training, the Atorvastatin also meant I suffered from muscle wasting.

Having read this, extolling the virtues of the humble Walnut for managing cholesterol, I decided to look for the research to  support this claim, and quickly found.

  1. Walnuts Decrease Risk of Cardiovascular Disease: A Summary of Efficacy and Biologic Mechanisms
    Penny M. Kris-Etherton

    The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 144, Issue 4, 1 April 2014, Pages 547S–554S, https://doi.org/10.3945/jn.113.182907

  2. Njike VY, Ayettey R, Petraro P, et al Walnut ingestion in adults at risk for diabetes: effects on body composition, diet quality, and cardiac risk measures BMJ Open Diabetes Research and Care 2015;3:e000115. doi: 10.1136/bmjdrc-2015-000115

After reading the studies,I decided to give it a try, after all the statins were destroying my ability to train, and thus race. As a result causing a high level of frustration and depression. Before stopping taking the full dose of the Atorvastatin, I got a lipid panel Cholesterol test.

I waited 30-days for the Atorvastatin to clear my system, got a 2nd cholesterol test, I'll call this the waiting period. I then bought 8lbs of shelled Walnuts from Spouts Farmers Market, at the time they were $5.99lb. I carefully weighed a small empty glass, then weighed it again full of Walnuts. Almost exactly 6oz.

Starting May 1st 2018 through to and including June 23rd 2018, everyday, around lunchtime I'd eat 6oz of Walnuts. I'll call this the Walnut period. It turns out because I was on a generic statin, it was actually more expensive to eat Walnuts than take the drug. The price per pound of Walnuts varied over the 6-weeks at Sprouts it fluctuated from $4.99-$6.99. At 6oz per day, a 7-day supply of Walnuts would average $20. Where as a months supply of Atorvastatin would be $19.50.

The environmentalist in me, also had concerns about Walnuts. industrial growing of any nuts is notoriously water intensive. I have blood pressure amd cholesterol numbers going back as far as 1994. The older numbers are measured in mmol/L and I only have LDL but they can be converted.

This week I got the results from the Walnut period and they are clear. My HDL is up from the statin period, and only slightly down from the waiting period. My LDL is down from waiting period, but up from the statin period. For the last 5-8 years my diet hasn't really changed. I don't use artificial sweeteners, never add sugar to anything, focus on low sugar, low carbohydrate foods, have never smoked, and drink only infrequently.

Date Total HDL LDL Triglycerides Notes
August 2012 219 63 148 Reference worst case test
Feb. 17, 2018 149 34 101 Statin period post CVD
Mar. 28, 2018 214 59 139 Waiting period
Jun 23, 2018 201 51 131 90 Walnut period

Despite my initial jubilation about the results, on reflection, there is no clear conclusion I can draw from this. First, it's a single test, compared to 14 prior tests over 24-years that show a year on year gradual increase in LDL. Secondly, the results are statistically only a minor variation rather than a significant one. I need to go back and lookup triglyceride numbers from the tests I have them for.

The only seeming side effect of eating the Walnuts was an increase in facial hair growth. Seriously. What was best is there was no trace of fatigue and given my workout and training schedule, I perceived an absense of DOMS. This could be attributed to less intensity and less duration based on my earlier problems with the statins.

Travelling with pounds of Walnuts isn't practical. For now I've gone back to a 20mg statin. Next I need to schedule and review my health and heart health with a cardio specialist. My plan is to try to mix walnuts and a low dose statin to see how that works out.

I'm behind, as always on race reports. Wildflower Long course didn't go well; however last Sunday, I had a great Sprint triathlon. I need to write both of these up.

  • Current Location: Bouler, CO
  • Current Mood: Moving on
  • Current Music: FRA/DEN World Cup 2018

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