Cholesterol can get too low

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY

May 16, 1999|By Joe Graedon, and Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon, and Teresa Graedon,Special to the Sun; King Features Syndicate

Q. Your column about the dangers of low cholesterol caught my attention. For years I avoided all fat in my diet, but then I was unable to conceive. After including fat in my diet briefly, I became pregnant, but lost the baby when I returned to my no-fat regimen.

After the miscarriage, my gynecologist told me my cholesterol (94) was not sufficient for making the sex hormones I need to sustain a pregnancy. I changed my diet, raised my cholesterol to 114 and had a healthy, normal, successful pregnancy.

I am no longer willing to eat and live like a fanatic. I now eat a more balanced diet with more vegetable- derived fat and keep my cholesterol around 114.

A. Some people incorrectly assume that cholesterol is harmful. While too much is dangerous, we could not survive without it. Cholesterol is a building block for cell membranes and a number of hormones. Cholesterol also appears to affect mood. Very low levels may predispose some people to depression.

The healthiest range for cholesterol seems to be between 140 and 200. As you found, an extreme diet avoiding all fat can drop cholesterol levels below this range and is not healthy.

Q. I have been diagnosed with an underactive thyroid gland, but my doctor has told me very little about my condition. I can't seem to lose weight no matter how hard I diet.

I am also bothered with constipation, dry skin, weakness and swollen hands and feet. Some days I can't get my rings off.

Having so little energy makes me depressed. I take vitamins and iron to try to overcome the fatigue, but it's not helping. Neither is the Synthroid my doctor prescribed. Is there something else I should do? Please send me any information you have on thyroid.

A. Your symptoms are classic for hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). Getting the dose of Synthroid right can be tricky. Iron and calcium can both interfere with thyroid hormone (Levo-T, Levothroid, Synthroid) absorption.

Write to the Graedons in care of The Sun, 501 N. Cal-vert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278, or e-mail to pharmacy@ mindspring.com.

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