Q: My HDL cholesterol has always been low, in the mid-to-upper 30s. Recently I read your article about someone who took 2 tablespoons of good olive oil a day to lower blood pressure.

I began taking 2 tablespoons every day (one in the morning in my cereal and one in my salad with dinner or used with cooking). I just had a blood test and my good HDL went up to 50. I was pleasantly surprised, since I had made no other changes. Is there any correlation?

A: Spanish scientists have examined this question. They found that virgin olive oil consumption boosts protective HDL (Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, March 2019). In addition, people at high risk of cardiovascular problems also have better HDL function when their diets contain plenty of legumes, whole grains, fish and nuts.

A review of the research on HDL cholesterol found that virgin olive oil consumption improves the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity of this natural blood fat (Nutrients, Feb. 26, 2020). This reduces the likelihood of developing atherosclerosis.

Q: I am positive that turmeric causes nosebleeds. I took it for one week and then the nosebleeds started. They were absolutely terrifying. I have never had nosebleeds before. It occurred to me that perhaps the turmeric was responsible.

I stopped taking it, and the nosebleeds stopped immediately. I mentioned it to my doctor, and she did not think the turmeric was responsible. I am not going to take the risk. No more turmeric for me!


A: Turmeric is the yellow spice used in curry. This herb also gives yellow mustard its distinctive yellow color. Both turmeric and its active ingredient curcumin have anti-inflammatory activity. That is why it is frequently used to ease arthritis pain (Drug Research, Aug. 3, 2020).

Curcumin and turmeric have been reported to have anticoagulant activity (Journal of Cellular Physiology, June 2018). That means they can prevent blood clots. In some susceptible people, these natural products may also make bleeding more likely. That may explain why you and many other readers have reported nosebleeds while relying on such dietary supplements for pain relief. Anyone taking a prescription anticoagulant should probably avoid both turmeric and curcumin to prevent bad bleeding episodes.

You can learn more about the pros and cons of turmeric in our book “Spice Up Your Health.” It is available in the book section of our store at www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.

Q: How is cod liver oil different from omega-3 fish oil supplements? I find the omega supplements are good for my skin and hair. Sometimes I notice a fishy smell, though. You can find cod liver oil in pill form, so you can avoid the horrible taste cod liver oil is famous for.

A: Fish oil is isolated from the tissues of oily fish such as mackerel, tuna or herring. Not surprisingly, cod liver oil is extracted from the livers of codfish. It does contain omega-3 fats just as other fish oils do.

One of the big differences between cod liver oil and other fish oil supplements is its vitamin A content. Livers are rich in this nutrient. As a result, some cod liver oils may even exceed the recommended daily requirement. If a pregnant woman takes in too much vitamin A, it could increase the risk for birth defects. Too much vitamin A can also lead to liver damage, especially in children. Consequently, if you take cod liver oil, don’t exceed the recommended dose.