People’s Pharmacy on LDL and HDL levels, thyroid hormones and milk of magnesia for underarm odors.

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Q: I started using CocoaVia after listening to a People’s Pharmacy radio show about the benefits of chocolate. I used it for six weeks before my annual physical.

I don’t know if the CocoaVia was the cause, but my HDL cholesterol had jumped from 58 to 78, and my LDL had dropped considerably. My doctor wrote “fantastic” on the lab report he sent me.

I am hoping someday to get off my blood-pressure medicine, lisinopril, by losing weight, exercising more and continuing to take CocoaVia. Do the chocolate studies say anything about it lowering LDL and raising HDL?

A: CocoaVia is a standardized high-flavanol cocoa. A review of 10 studies found that cocoa products or dark chocolate significantly lowered total and LDL cholesterol (European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, August 2011).

A recent mouse study found that supplementing the animals’ diets with cocoa improved their cholesterol levels and reduced the amount of plaque in their aortas (Mediators of Inflammation online, Feb. 15, 2016).

Your personal experience is consistent with the results of another study in which giving cocoa flavanols every day lowered blood pressure, total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol while it raised good HDL cholesterol and improved blood-vessel flexibility (British Journal of Nutrition, Oct. 28, 2015).

Q: My niece is a doctor. Since thyroid problems run in our family, we asked her about T3 for thyroid. She says it is very dangerous.

T3 only lasts in your system for half an hour and gives you a high. If you have heart problems, too much can give you a heart attack. She doesn’t know of any evidence demonstrating that anyone is unable to convert T4 to T3, so regular Synthroid should work for everyone.

A: The thyroid gland produces both T4 (levothyroxine) and T3 (triiodothyronine). Only T3 is active in body tissues and is responsible for cellular metabolism. The body makes T3 from T4 by removing one iodine atom with an enzyme.

Many people with sluggish thyroid glands do well on just levothyroxine (Levoxyl, Synthroid, Tirosint, Unithroid). Some individuals, however, have a genetic variation that can influence the efficiency of T4 to T3 conversion (Endocrine Connections, December 2015). Using TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) as the standard measure of thyroid function won’t always show what is happening with T3.

You will find far more detail about this topic and why some doctors prescribe T3 along with T4 in our downloadable, 25-page Guide to Thyroid Hormones, available at

Too much T4 or T3 can lead to heart problems or anxiety and insomnia. That’s why it is so critical to get thyroid hormone doses adjusted properly.

Q: I have been using milk of magnesia (MoM) on my underarms nearly all my life. When I was in my early teens, I had started to develop body odor. My mother gave me a deodorant, but two days later I got a bad burning rash in my armpits.

The doctor advised me that I am allergic to deodorants and told me to use MoM instead. I have done so ever since, for the past three decades.

A: Many readers have told us that milk of magnesia reduces body odor without irritating delicate armpit skin. We suspect it makes the skin less hospitable to bacteria that produce unpleasant aromas.