How Fat Makes You Skinny . . . (Eating Fat Lowers Your Cholesterol?!)
Diseases seem to arrive in three’s each day in my office. Today I had three different patients with cholesterol concerns who were notably confused about what actually makes the cholesterol worse, and what causes weight gain. Each of them, like many patients that I see, were stuck in a state of confusion between low fat and low carbohydrate lifestyle change. My hope is to give my patients and anyone reading this blog a little more clarity regarding what cholesterol is, how it is influenced and how it affect our individual health.
First, the standard cholesterol profile does not give us a true picture of what is occurring at a cellular level. The standard cholesterol panel includes: total cholesterol (all the forms of cholesterol), HDL (the good stuff), LDL-C (the “bad” stuff) and triglycerides. It is important to recognize that the “-C” in these measurements stands for “a calculation” usually completed by the lab, and not an actual measurement. Total cholesterol, HDL-C and triglycerides are usually measured and LDL-C is calculated using the Friedewald equation [LDL = total cholesterol – HDL – (triglycerides/5)]. (No, there won’t be a quiz on this at the end . . . so relax.)
However, an ever increasing body evidence reveals that the concentration and size of the LDL particles correlates much more powerfully to the degree of atherosclerosis progression (arterial blockage) than the calculated LDL concentration or weight (1, 2, 3).
There are three sub-types of LDL that we each need to be aware of: Large “fluffy” LDL particles (type I), medium LDL particles (type II & III), and small dense LDL particles (type IV).
Second, it is important to realize that HDL and LDL types are actually transport molecules for triglyceride – they are essentially buses for the triglycerides (the passengers). HDL can be simplistically thought of as taking triglycerides to the fat cells and LDL can be thought of as taking triglycerides from the fat cells to the muscles and other organs for use as fuel.
Third, it is the small dense LDL particles that are more easily oxidized and because of their size, are more likely to cause damage to the lining of the blood vessel leading to damage and blockage. The large boyant LDL (“big fluffy LDL particles”) contain more Vitamin E and are much less susceptible to oxidation and vascular wall damage.
Eating more fat or cholesterol DOES NOT raise small dense LDL particle number. Eating eggs, bacon and cheese does not raise your cholesterol! What increases small dense LDL particles then? It is the presence of higher levels of insulin. Insulin is increased because of carbohydrate (sugars, starches or fruits) ingestion. It is the bread or the oatmeal you eat with the bacon that is the culprit. The bread or starch stimulates and insulin response. Insulin stimulates the production of triglycerides and “calls out more small buses” to transport the increased triglyceride to the fat cells (4, 5, 6, 7).
Fourth, following a very low carbohydrate diet or ketogenic diet has been demonstrated to decreased small dense LDL particle number and correlates with a regression in vascular blockage (8, 9). So, what does this really mean to you and me? It means that the low-fat diet dogma that that has been touted from the rooftops and plastered across the cover of every magazine and health journal for the last 50 years is wrong. . . absolutely wrong.
I talk about this and answers questions on today’s Periscope. You can see the recording on Katch.me with the comments in real time here:
Or, you can watch the video below:
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- Rizzo M, Berneis K. Low-density lipoprotein size and cardiovascular risk assessment. QJM. 2006 Jan;99(1):1-14. PMID: 16371404
- Rizzo M, Berneis K, Corrado E, Novo S. The significance of low-density-lipoproteins size in vascular diseases. Int Angiol. 2006 Mar;25(1):4-9. PMID:16520717
- Howard BV, Wylie-Rosett J. Sugar and cardiovascular disease: A statement for healthcare professionals from the Committee on Nutrition of the Council on Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Metabolism of the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2002 Jul 23;106(4):523-7. PMID: 12135957
- Elkeles RS. Blood glucose and coronary heart disease. European Heart Journal (2000) 21, 1735–1737 doi:10.1053/euhj.2000.2331
- Stanhope KL, Bremer AA, Medici V, et al. Consumption of Fructose and High Fructose Corn Syrup Increase Postprandial Triglycerides, LDL-Cholesterol, and Apolipoprotein-B in Young Men and Women. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2011;96(10):E1596-E1605.
- Shai I et al. Cirulation. 2010; 121:1200-1208
- Krauss RM, et al. Prevalence of LDL subclass pattern B as a function of dietary carbohydrate content for each experimental diet before and after weight loss and stabilization with the diets. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2006; 83:1025-1031
- Gentile M, Panico S, et al., Clinica Chimica Acta, 2013, Association between small dense LDL and early atherosclerosis in a sample of menopausal women, Department of Clinical Medicine and Surgery, University “Federico II” Medical School, Naples, Italy Division of Cardiology, Moscati Hospital, Aversa, Italy A. Cardarelli Hospital, Naples, Italy