Graedons' Pharmacy: Eat more fat to lower cholesterol

April 29, 2014 

Q: I am so confused. I am a vegetarian with high cholesterol. My glucose is climbing and may put me at risk for diabetes.

I decided to change my diet after reading that a vegan diet with no fat is the best way to lower cholesterol. I have dropped weight since going on a vegan diet, but I really miss avocados.

Help! I see my doctor next week and really want to avoid cholesterol-lowering medication.

A: There is growing evidence that the war on fat was misguided. One of the best studies to date compared a Mediterranean-type diet with added olive oil (at least 4 tablespoons daily) or nuts (a large handful daily) to a low-fat "prudent" diet. People consuming extra fat from olive oil or nuts had fewer heart attacks, strokes and deaths from cardiovascular causes (New England Journal of Medicine, April 4, 2013).

Not only did the Mediterranean diet with extra monounsaturated fats reduce heart risk, it also lowered the likelihood of developing diabetes (Annals of Internal Medicine, Jan. 7, 2014). There are more specifics about the Mediterranean diet and cholesterol-lowering foods in our book "Quick and Handy Home Remedies" (available online at Because avocados are rich in monounsaturated fat, there is no reason to deprive yourself.

Q: About three years ago I developed chronic hives -- raging carpets of hives, mysteriously appearing mostly between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.

I couldn't figure out what was causing them. When my doctor discovered that I have low thyroid and an anti-immune thyroid disorder, he suggested that I try completely eliminating gluten from my diet.

Thorough avoidance of gluten has completely eliminated the hive problem. When I occasionally

slip up and accidentally eat small amounts of gluten, for instance

in an improperly labeled sauce at a restaurant, I get small outbreaks of hives. My hives have become an amazingly accurate gluten meter!

A: Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition triggered by exposure to gluten in wheat, barley and rye. Most people, including physicians, think of celiac symptoms in terms of the digestive tract.

There is, however, a distinctive skin condition called dermatitis herpetiformis that is associated with celiac disease. This itchy rash can be difficult to diagnose and may be accompanied by thyroid problems.

Q: I'm 40 years old and recently started playing competitive tennis. The wear and tear on my knees was causing a lot of problems, especially with my left knee. I started eating the gin-soaked raisins I read about in your column, and within two weeks I was pain-free. I no longer needed the tape and was able to stop seeing the chiropractor. Thanks for the great tip!

A: We have been writing about gin-soaked raisins for joint pain for 20 years. Some people report great success, while others don't find this remedy especially helpful.

To make the remedy, put golden raisins into a shallow bowl and pour gin over them until they are barely covered. Allow the gin to evaporate. This may take a week to 10 days. Then eat nine gin-soaked raisins daily.

There are more details about alternative treatments for arthritis at

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Email them via

Their newest book is "Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them."

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