What are the Optimal Cholesterol Levels?

CDC's guidelines (Optimal Cholesterol Levels)
According to the CDC’s guidelines. this cholesterol reading is A-OK!

Cholesterol levels impact heart disease. But before taking steps to achieve our optimal cholesterol levels, we need to know what they are!

While researching the eggs and cholesterol debate last week, I stumbled onto a video on Dr. Gil Carvalho’s YouTube channel Nutrition Made Simple.

A physician and research scientist with a CalTech Ph.D. in biology, Dr. Carvalho covers many of the same issues we do at Plantbased.com.

While sometimes dismissive of vegans, his views on plant-based eating’s health benefits corroborate the overwhelming balance of evidence I’ve uncovered.

Unlike me, though, he’s no amateur. His peer-reviewed published research covers genetics, molecular biology, nutrition, behavior, aging, and neuroscience. 

In the video I watched, he shares how he learned to determine optimal cholesterol levels.

Spoiler alert: It wasn’t in medical school!

All of Dr. Gil’s education didn’t teach him how to live a healthy lifestyle. Not until his mid-30s did he learn to reduce his risk of disease with diet.

The CDC considers a “desirable” total cholesterol level as one less than 200 mg/dL. However, don’t confuse that number with an “optimal cholesterol level!”

Dr. Gil accurately points out, “35 percent of heart attacks happen to people under 200.”

So, what is the optimal cholesterol level?

He continues, “Below 150 is a sweet spot where your arteries don’t develop the clogs.”

What about Optimal Cholesterol Levels of LDL? 

The CDC’s “desirable LDL” cholesterol level is less than 100 mg/dL. But in this interviewThe American Journal of Cardiology’s long-time editor-in-chief Dr. William Clifford Roberts says something very different:

Atherosclerosis is very rare in populations with LDL cholesterol levels <70 mg/dL for a lifetime... We need to think about atherosclerosis like the pediatricians think of measles, mumps, whooping cough, and polio. Let’s prevent it. We don’t have to have it.”

We don’t have to have it! Heart disease is the leading global cause of death. But it doesn’t have to be if we follow Dr. Roberts’s advice and stop “eating too much cholesterol and saturated fat.” 

How Dr. Gil Achieved His Optimal Cholesterol levels

When Dr. Gil stopped eating cholesterol and saturated fat, his numbers dropped like a rock to under 150 for total cholesterol and under 75 for LDL. 

He achieved optimal cholesterol levels!

If you care about your heart’s health, watch his video and listen to his story.

Then follow up a second video in which he identifies three foods scientifically shown to lower cholesterol and stresses the importance of letting science guide our dietary decisions:

“We really can’t go by gurus telling us to eat this that and the other …  And anecdotal evidence, things like …my uncle said that that worked… who knows what that means? It’s very hard to pin down.”

Why trust what unverified sources have to say on the world’s top killer, heart disease? You deserve the best information, and Dr. Gil knows precisely where to find it:

“The truth is controlling our cholesterol levels is life and death, so we gotta go straight to the strongest source of information we have, and that’s the scientific evidence.”

I couldn’t agree more, let’s follow the science. On this topic, the evidence is clear: Our optimal total cholesterol level is 150, and 75 for LDL cholesterol!

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