When I attended the Healthy Lifestyle Expo back in October, I had the opportunity to ask Dr. McDougall a question. I thought you might enjoy reading his response. My friend Sirica taped the response for me with my iPhone, so I have written it word for word.
GRETCHEN – My doctor is really supportive of my vegan diet, however with my latest blood work my cholesterol was 130. My doctor was telling me that she was concerned that my cholesterol was too low (Audience laughed). How do you approach your doctor when they want you to raise your cholesterol? She said she has seen problems with cholesterol that is so low.
Dr. McDougall (Smiling ear to ear) – Well, has she really?!?!?! I would ask where those problems are because I have been at this for 43 years and I have never seen any. Certainly sick people, say you have cancer, you don’t eat, your cholesterol goes low, but, the cause and effect is clear there.
Unfortunately your doctor, although probably well meaning, has no experience or education on the effect of diet and cholesterol and I really know this from her statement. As I said, I have been at this for 43 years, and now people who get sick, say you get cancer or severe heart failure, you get so sick you don’t eat, and when you don’t eat your blood cholesterol will go down just because you don’t eat, and that is where the association comes from…sick people don’t eat and their cholesterol goes low.
If you eat a healthy diet and your cholesterol goes low, that is a completely different relationship, and that is ALWAYS helpful. I generally recommend a cholesterol less than 150 mg/dl, but I RARELY put somebody on cholesterol lowering medication if they can’t achieve that by diet alone.
So, I think that is something you can look at as a big “A” on your report card if you have a cholesterol of 150 or less.
I wouldn’t change doctors because of this one error in understanding. This doctor probably has a lot to offer. I would make a small attempt to educate the doctor, just see if she is interested, if not, ya know. Use professionals for what they do well. If you are going to have a baby, you want a doctor who is a good catch (laughs), you want a surgeon who is an artist. You don’t really care if that person smoked a cigar a 1/2 hour before they walked into the operating room, you want somebody who is an artist.
It looks like you are not looking for a doctor who will tell you to eat a healthy diet or what that diet is, because you already know that, you don’t need to hear it from a doctor. You just need them for the services that they will provide and doctors have some really specialized skills that you ought to take advantage of, but the skills of knowing what a human being ought to eat have somehow never gotten into the curriculum. That just never happened and it just blows me away.
My son is finishing his last year of internal medicine residency and some of you may know I am a professor at Touro University Medical School and the student don’t know, they have no idea and neither do the professors. The students care, the professors are threatened by the fact that they may not know something as crucial as what a human being eats. I mean, what a question (he is giggling)?
Anyway, did I answer your question?
Yep…he did. It was amazing to be able to ask Dr. McDougall this question and hear his answer. I had a pretty good idea from reading the literature that I was healthy with a cholesterol of 130, but I wanted to have some more facts and specifics to be able to go off of. Hearing that the low cholesterol / unhealthy connection was usually a factor of being REALLY sick and not eating made me feel a lot better.
I have so much respect for Dr. McDougall. I think I first read one of his books when I was in high school, so being able to personally ask him a question was an absolute thrill.
Photo of Dr. McDougall courtesy of Processed People.