Cholesterol can be both good and bad, so it's important to learn the facts about what cholesterol is, how it affects your health and how to manage your blood cholesterol levels. Most of us are aware that total cholesterol is made up of HDL (healthy cholesterol), and LDL (unhealthy cholesterol), and we also know that there is a high correlation between high LDL levels and coronary heart disease…but we don’t have the entire picture:
Two types of LDLs
LDL Cholesterol is not as bad as you think. High LDL in itself is NOT dangerous - this is because there really isn’t one LDL, there are two. It is ONLY pattern B LDL that is of concern. Here is a brief description of the two types:
The first type is called pattern A (large buoyant) LDL. Everybody knows that LDL correlates with cardiovascular disease and that’s true, but it’s not this one – pattern A LDL. These are so light they are buoyant; they float, so they get carried through the bloodstream without a chance to attach to the endothelial cells to start the plaque formation.
Pattern B LDL is also known as small dense LDL. These guys are dense and they don’t float. They are small and can easily get underneath the edge of the surface of the endothelial cells…and this starts the plaque formation. The small dense LDL is the one to watch out for.
When LDL levels in the bloodstream are measured in a lipid profile test, both pattern A and pattern B are measured together (it’s too hard to distinguish the two). So when your doctor gives you your LDL numbers, it’s a combination of the two types – the neutral one and the bad one.
So how can you tell whether your LDL is the neutral one or the bad one? Have a look at your triglyceride level in association with it. When the triglyceride are low and your HDL is high, that’s good; you want a low triglyceride, high HDL because that’s the good cholesterol. You want high good cholesterol.
If however, you have high triglyceride level and low HDL, that’s bad. That’s what you don’t want this will eventually lead to a heart attack. Triglyceride to HDL ratio actually predicts cardiovascular disease way better than LDL ever did. The main takeaway here is that when you measure LDL cholesterol, you measure both types.
Dietary fat raises your large buoyant (good) LDL.
Carbohydrate/sugars raise your small dense (bad) LDL.
This is why a high carb, low-fat diet is so dangerous, and a very good reason to stay away from all those packaged foods that are marketed as healthy and ‘low-fat’ (or calorie-wise versions of sauces and salad dressings) - low-fat processed food needs sugar in order to make it palatable….but this is a very dangerous combination, and can lead to increases in [pattern B] LDL cholesterol levels, leading to coronary heart disease.
Eggs, meat, cheese, butter and almost all saturated fats have actually been shown to improve lipid profiles. Both saturated and mono-unsaturated (olive oil, nuts, avocado) fats have been shown to increase HDL and pattern A LDL. So as far as eggs and saturated fats are concerned – eat away!