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#09 – Cholesterol Deficiency, Eating for Mental Health, Optimizing the Carnivore Diet, and Benefits of Inflammation with Chris Masterjohn, PhD

Despite a shifting scientific landscape, dietary cholesterol is still a hotly debated topic. Joe Rogan and Chris Kresser eat eggs every day, while the plant-based community still loves to highlight the supposed dangers of dietary cholesterol. High cholesterol has historically been associated with poor health, but is there a range where cholesterol levels get too low? Our guest in this episode of the podcast believes the combination of a genetic predisposition combined with a strict vegan diet caused him to develop a dangerous cholesterol deficiency. A former assistant professor of Nutrition Science at Brooklyn College, Chris Masterjohn, Ph.D. is one of the smartest minds in nutrition.

Chris shares a fascinating story of how going vegan caused him to develop nutrient deficiencies which led to a battle with mental illness and anxiety. Chris’ subsequent focus on nutrient-dense, animal-based foods restored his health and changed his perspective on how the foods we eat play a large role in cognitive function. We cover a wide range of topics with Chris and he takes a number of controversial positions in this episode, including who shouldn’t eat eggs, nutrient deficiencies that are most likely to arise on a carnivore diet, whether “fancy” blood testing metrics like LDL-P are necessary to gauge cardiovascular health, why some people fail on vegan diets and much more.

Listen on Google Play Music


This Episode Covers:

  • Chris’ journey into Veganism and battles with anxiety [6:00];
  • Cholesterol deficiency and genetic explanations for Chris’ trouble with a Vegan diet[16:30];
  • The new thinking on dietary cholesterol [24:00];
  • Who shouldn’t eat eggs? [27:00];
  • What is an “optimal” lipid profile? [32:00];
  • Chris’ take on arachidonic acid and the role of inflammation [39:00];
  • How linoleic acid depletes EPA and DHA [45:48];
  • Testing for nutritional status and optimizing carnivore diet[49:00];


There are actually quite a few studies which have found an association between strict Vegan diets and issues with mental health. This is NOT to say that all, or even most, Vegans and Vegetarians are depressed. However, there is growing evidence that mental illness may be a bi-product of Vegan diets for some people. The issue is well summarized in this blog on the Psychology Today website. We also touched on some of these issues in our episode with Dr. Kahn.

This is a good article discussing the concordance / discordance issue for LDL-P and why measuring LDL-P is important.

Here is the commentary I discuss with Chris by a physician who believes LDL-C greater than 190 mg/dl can be a sign that a patient may have undiagnosed sitosterolemia.

Here is a link to sign up for Chris’ Nutrient Deficiency “The Ultimate Cheat Sheet.” Use Coupon Code GENEFOOD for a 20% discount.

John O'Connor

John O'Connor is the founder of Gene Food. Read his full bio here.

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  1. Mick says:

    1. pressing play or download doesn’t work
    2. pressing google play results in:
    “Google Play Music is currently available in select territories and for select account types. Learn more”

  2. Markus says:

    Another great interview!

    It’s always interesting to hear what Chris has to say and I think he has the most well-balanced overview of nutrition.

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