Not All LDL Cholesterol Is ‘Bad’ For Your Heart

| February 13, 2012

Cholesterol is transported in the bloodstream in the form of what are known as ‘lipoproteins’. Basically, these are tiny packages of cholesterol and fat, encased in a mix of fats (known as phospholipids) and protein. Lipoproteins come in two different forms: ‘low-density’ and ‘high density’. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) has links with a reduced risk of heart disease, while low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is linked with heightened heart disease risk. This is basically why HDL and LDL are often referred to as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ cholesterol respectively.

While LDL-cholesterol has been painted as a villain where heart disease is concerned, increasing evidence shows that not all LDL-cholesterol is bad. LDL-cholesterol varies in size, ranging from small, dense particles up to much larger, less-dense (‘fluffy’) particles. It has been known for a long time that the size and density of LDL particles has an important bearing on apparent risk of heart disease. What the evidence shows is this: small, dense LDL particles are associated with an increased risk of heart disease, while large, ‘fluffy’ LDL particles are not [1].

A useful analogy to think of the potential damage wreaked by different types of LDL is to think of large, ‘fluffy’ LDL as a tennis ball, and small, dense LDL as a golf ball. If we were to throw each of these at a window, it’s fair to say that the golf ball is quite likely to break the window, while the tennis ball is likely just to bounce off.

While we’re encouraged to eat a low-fat diet for the sake of our cardiovascular health, there is some evidence that this strategy can have a detrimental effect on LDL particle size. In one study, individuals were fed a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet for four weeks. On a separate occasion, the volunteers were then fed a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet for the same length of time [2]. Compared to the low-carbohydrate diet, the low-fat one led to a reduction in the size of the LDL particles (not a good thing). In another study, adopting a low-carbohydrate diet was found to increase LDL particle size [3].

This evidence suggests that the low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet so commonly advocated for heart disease prevention can lead to changes in LDL size (making LDL smaller and denser) – a change that is actually associated with enhanced risk of heart disease. It’s another reason to be mistrustful of conventional dietary advice regarding the prevention of heart disease.

 

Here’s to a healthy heart

Dr John Briffa
Editor
for The Cholesterol Truth



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Bear in mind we are not addressing anyone’s personal situation and you should rely on this for informational purposes only. Please consult with your own physician before acting on any recommendations contained herein.


References:

1. Austin MA, Low-density lipoprotein subclass patterns and risk of myocardial infarction. JAMA. 1988;260(13):1917-21

2. Faghihnia N, et al. Changes in lipoprotein(a), oxidized phospholipids, and LDL subclasses with a low-fat high-carbohydrate diet. J Lipid Res. 2010;51(11):3324-30 3. Volek JS, et al. Modification of lipoproteins by very low-carbohydrate diets. J Nutr. 2005;135(6):1339-42

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Category: What Doctors Don't Tell You

Comments (3)

Testimonials are based on the personal experience of individuals. Results are not typical and the potential benefits of taking any drug or supplement may vary depending on your individual needs and health requirements. Please consult your GP before making any changes to your medical regimen.

  1. Calim says:

    This whole cholesterol thing is getting very confusing. I don’t knwo who to believe anymore.

  2. ruelmain says:

    The cholesterol theory is the problem, and until we get to grips with it fuzzy thinking and bewiladerment will reignThe original proponent of the cholesterol theory (Ancel Keyes) abandoned it, and we are left with various prominent statistics:-Most victims of heart disease have normal choleseterol levels.Treatment with Fenofibrates which affects cholesterol level is ineffective therapeutically.Tretament with Ezetrol also lowers cholesterol, and is also ineffective.Treatment with statins is effective in a limited way, but the effect is probably due to reduction of inflammation, as is recognied by the tests that Astra-Zeneca presented for Rosuvastatin, and not to lowering of cholesterol.The “Cholesterol Truth” needs to stand up for the people who can’t tolerate statins for medical reasons: what is the best thing to do instead, and how much better is it than following the statin path ?I believe that what I am doing (multiple anti-inflammatories, multiple anti-oxidants, consistent fitness regime, restoration of Vitamin D levels, resotation of magnesium levels, sustained weight loss and lowered insulin levels) is the right course.Is it ?If so everybody should know,Charles MarriageP.S. The cholesterol theory is the problem. The originals studies, or arther the conclusions drwan from the data have long been disowned by their proponents (such as Ansell Keyes)

  3. World Universities says:

    Great article, thanks for sharing with us.

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