Friday, June 10, 2016

Small LDL Cholesterol: Epidemic of the New Century

There's a new risk factor for heart disease-and it's not high cholesterol. It's rapidly skyrocketed into first place as the number one most common trigger for heart disease.

Ask your family physician what the number one cause for heart disease is, and he/she will likely reply "high cholesterol" without hesitating. Most Americans would answer the same. After all, the media overflows with discussions about cholesterol and how drugs can reduce it.

Just 30 years ago, small LDL was far less common because lifestyles were different and the technology for identifying small LDL was unavailable. Why the surge in the small LDL pattern? Two reasons: 1) The explosion of excess weight and obesity in the U.S., which triggers formation of small LDL particles, and 2)over-reliance on processed carbohydrates, especially wheat-based convenience foods, that increase expression of the small LDL pattern enormously. 

Small LDL has climbed into first place as the number one cause of heart disease. (Number two: low HDL cholesterol.) Given current trends, as many as 80-90% of those with heart disease, 40-50% of the overall adult population may harbor this pattern.

Official agencies like the American Heart Association and the USDA have lost touch with the emergence of small LDL as a trigger for heart disease. The USDA Food Pyramid, for instance, advises American adults to eat 6-8 servings of grains per day. This advice is a sure-fire method to ignite expression of the small LDL pattern. The American Heart Association's Heart Check Mark program endorses products like Cocoa Puffs, Berry Kix and Cookie Crisp cereals and hundreds of other similar products as "heart healthy" that likewise act as potent triggers of the small LDL pattern.