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On this evenings PeriScope video we talked about cholesterol. This is the burning question on everyone’s mind who starts a Low-Carb, High Fat or Ketogenic Diet: “What will happen to my cholesterol if I lower my carbohydrates and eat more fat?”
The answer . . . it will improve!
How do I know this? I’m an obesity specialist. I specialize in FAT or lipids (to put it kinder scientific terms). To specialize in fat, one must know where it came from, what it’s made of and where it is going. And, this has been the case with every single patient I have used this dietary change with for the last ten years, myself included.
Lets start with the contents of the standard cholesterol or “Lipid Panel”:
HDL-C (the calculated number for “good” cholesterol)
LDL-C (the calculated number for “bad” cholesterol).
The first problem with this panel is that it makes you believe that there are four different forms of cholesterol. NOT TRUE! Actually cholesterol is cholesterol, but it comes in different sizes based on what it’s function is at that moment in time. Think of cholesterol as a bus. There are bigger busses and smaller busses. Second, triglyceride is actually the passenger inside the HDL and the LDL busses. And third, Total Cholesterol is the sum of the HDL, LDL, as well as ILDL & VLDL which aren’t reported in the “Lipid Panel” above.
The fourth thing that this panel doesn’t tell you is that HDL & LDL are actually made up of sub-types or sub-particles and are further differentiated by weight and size.
For our conversation, we need to know that the number of LDL particles (LDL-P) can actually be measured in four different ways and these measurements have identifed that there are three sub-types: “Big fluffy” large dense LDL, medium dense LDL, and small-dense LDL. Research has identified that increased numbers of small-dense LDL correlates closely with risk for inflammation, heart disease and vascular disease (1).
If you’ve been a follower of my blog for a while, you’ve seen this picture before. This picture illustrates why an LDL-C (the bad cholesterol measurement) can be misleading. Both sides of the scale reflect an LDL-C of 130 mg./dl. However, the LEFT side is made up of only a few large fluffy LDL particles (this is the person with reduced risk for heart disease) called Pattern A or a LDL healthy cholesterol level. Even though the LDL-C is elevate above the recommended level of 100 mg/dl, the patient on the left has much less risk for vascular disease (this is why you CAN’T trust LDL-C as a risk factor).
The RIGHT side of the scale shows that the same 130 mg/dl of LDL-C is made up of man more small dense LDL particles (called “sd LDL-P”) with a Pattern B type that is as increased risk for heart or vascular disease. This is where the standard Lipid Panel above, fails to identify heart disease and it’s progression.
Research tells us that the small dense LDL particle levels increase as the triglycerides increase. And we know that Triglyceride levels increase in the presence of higher levels of insulin leading to a cascade of inflammatory changes. Insulin is directly increased by the ingestion of simple and complex carbohydrates. Insulin also increases with the ingestion of too much protein. So, that chicken salad or the oatmeal you ate, thinking it was good for you, actually just raised your cholesterol. If you are insulin resistant, your cholesterol just increased by 2-10 times the normal level (see my article here on how insulin resistance causes this.)
“Ok, but Dr. Nally, there are four different companies out in the market measuring these fractional forms of cholesterol. Which one should I choose?”
There are actually five different ways you can check your risk.
Apolipoprotein levels. This can be done through most labs; however, this test doesn’t give you additional information on insulin resistance that the other tests can.
Berkley Heart Lab’s Gradient Gel Electrophoresis – This test gives a differentiation based on particle estimation between Pattern A and Pattern B
Vertical Auto Profile (VAP-II) test by Arthrotec – This test determines predominant LDL size but does not give a quantifiable lipoprotein particle number which I find very useful in monitoring progression of insulin resistance and inflammation.
NMR Spectroscopy from LipoScience – This test measures actual lipoprotein particle number as well as insulin resistance scores and will add the Lp(a) if requested. I find the NMR to be the most user friendly test and useful clinically in monitoring cholesterol, vascular risk, insulin resistance progression and control of the inflammation caused by diabetes. This test has the least variation based on collection methods if frozen storage is used.
Ion-Mobility from Quest – This test also measures lipoprotein particle number but does not include insulin resistance risk or scoring. Because the test is done through a gas-phase electric differential, the reference ranges for normal are slightly different from the NMR.
In regards to screening for cardiovascular risk, the use of all five approaches are more effective than the standard lipid panel. However, I have found that clinically the NMR Lipo-profile or the Cardio I-Q Ion-Mobility tests are the most useful in additionally monitoring insulin resistance, inflammation, and disease progression.
It is was the use of these tests that demonstrated to me the profound effect of carbohydrate restriction and ketogenic lifestyles on vascular and metabolic risk. We talk more about these tests on my Periscope video below:
Hope this helps.
Williams PT, et al. Comparison of four methods of analysis of lipoprotein particle subfractions for their association with angiographic progression of coronary artery disease. Atherosclerosis. 2014 April; 233(2): 713-720.
We have been taught for over 50 years that the minimum carbohydrate intake necessary to maintain health is 130 grams per day, with the average diet of 2000 calories per day containing around 300 grams per day based on 1977 recommendations that 55-60% of are dietary intake should come from carbohydrates. This value was initially established during World War II by a committee of scientists tasked with determining dietary changes that might effect national defense (1). These “guidelines,” originally called the Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA) and accepted by many as the gospel truth, have been modified every ten years and in 1997 changed to the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI). However, the recommended carbohydrate values have not changed other than “avoiding added sugars” in the most recent 2015 recommendations.
In light of the fact that there are NO actual diseases caused by lack of carbohydrate intake, most dietitians and physicians still preach the carbohydrate dogma originally outlined by the RDA. I say dogma, because these recommendations are based on a diet that vilifies fat, particularly animal fat like red meat. Say the words “red meat” around a dietician these days you’d think Voldemort (“He Who Shall Not Be Named”) had returned.
I bring up the carbohydrate quandary because it is a question that I am asked every single day. The question that seems to be asked of me, more and more, is what exactly is a carbohydrate?
Let’s make it simple. There are really only three types of carbohydrates:
Starch (known as complex carbohydrates)
Let’s start with Sugar. The simple form of carbohydrates, and the form that spikes your blood sugar and insulin rapidly, are called mono-saccharides (glucose, galactose, fructose & xylose). When two of these mono-saccharides are bound together they form disaccharides like sucrose, also known as “table sugar” (glucose + fructose), lactose found in milk (glucose + galactose), and maltose found in cereals and sweet potatoes (glucose + glucose).
The simple monosaccharides or disaccharides are easy broken into their mono-saccharide form in the blood stream and require the body to produce insulin to be used. The person with insulin resistance, impaired fasting glucose or type II diabetes often produces 2-10 times the normal amount of insulin to correctly use these mono-saccharides (see why this is a problem in: The Dreaded Seven: Seven Detrimental Things Caused By High Insulin Levels). Remember, fruit is also simple sugar containing the mono-saccharide fructose . . . which we call “natures candy” in my office.
“Yea, I know sugar is bad for me, but Dr. Nally, I just eat the good starches.”
If I had a nickel for every time I’ve herd that phrase . . .
We’ve become comfortable with shunning fat and “simple sugar,” but in the process we’ve been eating more “good starch.” But the “good starches” are also saccharides – just in longer chains of more than three glucose molecules bound together. Our gut easily breaks the bonds between the glucose links and turns these starches into mono-saccharides to be used as fuel. It takes a bit longer than the simple sugars above, so the release of insulin is slower (which is why it has a better glycemic index score), but whether you produce the insulin in the first hour or the second hour after eating it, insulin is still insulin. In the case of insulin resistance, the damage is still done.
These good starches make up “comfort food” like bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, corn, grains & oats. To the patient with insulin resistance, impaired fasting glucose or type II diabetes, the higher insulin response stimulates increased weight gain, rise in cholesterol, shift in hormone function and progression of atherosclerosis (vascular and heart disease). See the recent article on Why Your Oatmeal is Killing Your Libedo.
What about “resistance starches?” These are still starches and I am finding clinically that they still cause a rise in insulin and push people out of ketosis (See Common Ketosis Killers).
Finally, Fiber. Fiber is a carbohydrate, however, it is the indigestible part of the plant. Fiber has double bonds between the saccharides that human gastrointestinal tracts cannot digest. In most cases, fiber passes right through the intestines without being digested. It actually acts like a broom for your colon, helping the intestines to move nutrients through the system. This is why I recommend 1-2 leafy green salads a day for most patient’s following ketogenic diet. Fiber does help to promote bowel function.
Fruit, non-green vegetables, pasta, grains and breads do contain good sources of fiber, however, these foods also have absorbable starches making them problematic as noted above.
The take home message is this, the use of starch or simple carbohydrate will be problematic for weight loss, cholesterol control, blood sugar control or blood pressure control in a patient with insulin resistance.
Therefore, the ketogenic lifestyle truly begins at the end of your comfort zone.
I am frequently asked about the sweeteners that can be used with a low carbohydrate diet. There are a number of sweeteners available that are used in “LowCarb” pre-processed foods like shakes or bars, or in cooking as alternatives to sugar; however, many of them raise insulin levels without raising blood sugar and are not appropriate for use with a true low-carbohydrate/ketogenic diet. You can see and print the article I published clarifying which sweeteners you can use and which ones to avoid in the menu bar above “Sour Truth About Sweeteners” and you can watch last night’s periscope below:
Good morning from Arizona. I’ve had a few people ask about how gut health relates to a ketogenic diet. This is a great question and one that I think can be answered best by taking a closer look at my natural koi pond and learning a little about pond scum.
So, sit back and look at the similaries between your gut and how nature balances a pond system: Katch.me
Or you can watch the video below:
The four tenets of health that we touch on above that are essential to understand before you can understand gut health:
The body is a unit and works as such with all parts enhancing the whole
The body is capable of self-regulation, self-healing, and health-maintenance
Structure & function are reciprocally interrelated
Rational treatment of the body must be based upon understanding the principles above and assisting or augmenting those principles
Keys to gut health and pond balancing that we touch on:
Remove the toxins from entering the system like:
Repair the system and it’s ability to balance the system
Provide structure for the bacteria to which it can bind
Provide essential vitamins and minerals like KetoEnhance & Omega-3 fatty acids
Restore the bacteria or flora of the system
Prebiotics (fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, Japanese natto, etc.)
Probiotics like Dietary KetoBalance (can be purchased in the office)
Replace the salts and pH balance where necessary
Limit things that shift the pH balance
Hope this gives you a starting point for your New Year!!