Do you have high cholesterol? You may want to check your thyroid levels!
Earlier this year the U.S. Secretaries of Health and Agriculture joined the American Health Association in stating that dietary cholesterol (the kind we get from eggs and meat products, for example) is no longer a nutrient of concern. After 50 years of guidelines advising to reduce dietary cholesterol, there is simply no good research to suggest that there is a link between the cholesterol we eat and our blood cholesterol levels.
So, if our dietary intake of cholesterol doesn’t affect our levels, what does? While other foods are certainly worth investigating (like sugar!), your thyroid can also play a role.
Hypothyroidism (or low thyroid function) is a very common, but usually unrecognized cause of high cholesterol levels. Low thyroid function affects our ability to produce and metabolize fats in proper levels and can ultimately lead to elevated triglycerides, cholesterol, and LDL (the “bad” cholesterol). There is a clear relationship between thyroid function and cholesterol levels that has been reproduced in many clinical studies.
As thyroid function decreases, cholesterol levels increase
Why is this important?
Well for one, you may be unnecessarily prescribed statins or cholesterol-lowering medication when the root cause is actually your thyroid.
Once thyroid function is addressed and your labs are optimal (TSH, FT3 and FT4), cholesterol levels often return to normal and no further medication is required.
If your latest lab work reveals high cholesterol, have a complete thyroid panel run (NDs can do this!) to rule out low thyroid function, especially if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- Weight gain
- Feeling cold
- Changes in hair, nails and/or skin
- Brain fog or low mood
If you are already on thyroid medication and are having problems with high cholesterol, you may want to speak with your health professional to ensure that your medication type and dosage is right for you AND that it is resulting in proper levels of thyroid hormones in the body.
Check out my previous blog post here for more information on thyroid lab testing.
Questions? We’re here to help,
Dr. Katie Rothwell, ND
C.V Rizos, M.S Elisaf, and E.N Liberopoulos Effects of Thyroid Dysfunction on Lipid Profile. Open Cardiovasc Med J. 2011; 5: 76–84. Published online 2011 Feb