For decades we’ve focused on unhealthy ‘high cholesterol’ and firmly pointed an accusing finger at high-fat foods while the real health dangers have remained hidden, even ignored…
And while the science now shows us the true causes, it seems few mainstream health professionals have changed their stance.
So I want to talk about the evidence and what we now know triggers the dangerous types of cholesterol…
And why the raw numbers don’t give the complete answer and can lead to poor decision making that can negatively affect our health.
Ok, so we have been traditionally taught that LDL is bad and HDL is good.
The second ‘L’ in both of these stands for lipoprotein and these are the substances that move cholesterol around the body.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), though, is not a single entity; there are very small dense LDL, small LDL, medium LDL, and large LDL and each has different biological effects.
Let me explain this as I do with my coaching clients…
Imagine an artery wall as a mat with holes the size of ping pong balls.
Cholesterol can lodge in these holes and be attacked by inflammatory products which, together, can lead to atherosclerosis, better known as hardening of the arteries.
Eeeek… No wonder they say cholesterol is bad, right?
Imagine you have a container filled with ping pong and volleyballs.
As you tip the container and unleash the balls along the mat, the ping pong balls are just the right size to become lodged while the volleyballs, too large to fit, continue on their merry way.
In this metaphor, we can understand how it’s the smallest LDL types that hold the greatest risk.
And this is what the research shows…
A study published in the renowned Journal of the American Medical Association showed that the smaller, dense LDL bring three times the risk of heart attack.
But it’s not just because they fit into these virtual holes…
These little LDL’s can be easily oxidised, damaged by oxygen…
They are more readily glycated, where a sugar attaches to them and alters their function…
And this can lead to increased inflammation and is where the real health threat lays.
These small damaged LDL’s also have a greater role to play, as this process also prevents them from being released from the body.
Instead, they are taken in by immune cells called monocytes, leading to something called foam cell formation, and contributing to the development of atherosclerosis.
And when we think back to the process of glycation, we can see that it is a sugar that triggers this effect.
The study Effect of a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet program compared to a low-fat diet on fasting lipoprotein subclasses found that people who followed a low-carb ketogenic-style eating plan, when compared to a low-fat high-carb diet, experienced “greater reductions in medium VLDL, small VLDL and medium LDL, and greater increases in VLDL particle size, large LDL, and HDL particle size.”
This indicates a healthy turnaround from the little, compact LDL types to the large, safer versions and could significantly lower cardiovascular disease risk.
So what do I recommend?
Get your fats from unoxidised, free-range, organic sources like grass-fed meat, poultry, wild caught fish, nuts, seeds, and eggs and stay clear of the refined sugars that can increase glycation, inflammation and your risk of cardiovascular disease.
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