I got questions from many consumers on how to lower their cholesterol level and the meanings of good LDLs versus bad LDL. In order to answer these questions, we need to take a deeper look into the history of low-fat diet. In the 1950s, the well-known American scientist Ancel Keys made a correlation between dietary cholesterol and heart disease in ‘The Seven Countries’ Study. This now famous study led to the promotion of a low fat diet as a healthy heart diet, which is taken as a given nowadays. Processed foods were modified to remove most of the fat, which was replaced with carbohydrates – primarily sugar – to make the food more palatable as low-fat food in general does not taste as good as the food with natural fat level. We were instructed to eat a diet low in fat and high in heavily processed carbohydrates for a happier, healthier heart. We did as we were told.
Since ’The Seven Countries’ study, however, heart disease rates have not plummeted as expected, despite the global dietary trend. Scientists have continued their research efforts to combat these statistics, resulting in a significant discovery:
In the recent years, the new researches on cholesterol challenged this well advertised dietary status quo: Firstly, the Seven Countries study has been found to have been incompletely carried out in a number of ways which brings the once clear correlation between cholesterol and heart disease into question. But more importantly, new research has revealed that the low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which is thought of as the “bad” cholesterol, actually comes in two types rather than just one:
- Large buoyant LDLs (Pattern A) – imagine light, bouncy beach balls
- Small dense LDLs (Pattern B) – imagine smaller, evasive golf balls
The smaller pattern B, golf ball LDL particles have been found to be more susceptible to oxidization in the circulation than their larger Pattern A, beach ball counterparts. They are more likely to lead to the development of atherosclerotic plaque, since their smaller size allows them easier access into the blood vessel walls. ..The smaller LDL’s are now becoming recognized as the ‘bad’ ones in terms of heart disease risk
Therefore the smaller LDL’s are now becoming recognized as the ‘bad’ ones in terms of heart disease risk; while the larger, LDL particles are associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Crucially, this new research has discovered that the LDLs the body produces are influenced by diet:
- A diet high in carbohydrates and low in fat leads to a larger number of the small dense variety of LDL – not good for the poor old heart.
- While a diet high in fat and low in carbohydrates causes more of the large, buoyant types of LDLs, and a happier cardiovascular system. Obviously it is still important to get a good balance of high quality unsaturated natural fats in the diet and avoid highly processed saturated fat rich foods.
This now poses the question of whether we should revert back to the diet of our ancestors. Have historical dietary recommendations actually contributed to heart disease rates over the past 60 years, rather than reduced them? The answer is not that simple, each diet recommendation has its own pros and cons. I always recommend a balanced diet tailored to individual needs based on his/her body type and the underlining health conditions. This is also the fundamental approach of Karuna whole plant wellness drinks, we believe in natural whole food diet that is rich in natural fibers, antioxidants and protein balanced with healthy fats and minerals.