by Ross Walker

If you read the Readers Digest you will be given the misconception that Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is the bad cholesterol and High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is the good cholesterol. It is not a well known fact that both LDL and HDL are divided into small LDL and large LDL, small HDL and large HDL. It is the small components of each molecule that are actually damaging and, in fact, it is really only small LDL cholesterol that builds up as fatty plaques in your arteries. The preponderance of small HDL means that you do not have enough of the good cholesterol to remove plaque from the arteries which is the basic function of HDL.

In Australia, there are only a limited number of laboratories that measure the subfractions of both LDL and HDL and many people with high cholesterol levels have high levels purely because they have Mainly large LDL, which is of no consequence.

Thus many people are being treated with statin drugs such as Lipitor, Crestor, Zocor or Pravachol, purely to lower a cholesterol because it is high and certainly not because it is getting into the arteries to form fatty plaques.

Interestingly, a low fat diet actually converts you from larger LDL to small LDL (exactly what you don’t want). A diet that is low in calories but has a more mix of natural foods that tends to be more high quality protein, high quality fats (natural fats) and high quality low glycaemic index carbohydrates such as vegetables and, to a lesser extent fruit, also converts you from small LDL to large LDL, i.e. the healthy pattern. Unfortunately, because large LDL tends to occupy most of the LDL this tends to put your cholesterol up and you think that the diet is doing you harm.

You can see that this entire subject is not as straight forward as having your cholesterol checked and going onto a pill which is often the wrong approach.