The Trouble With Wheat # 7: LDL Particle Size and Heart Disease

January 30, 2012

The Trouble With Wheat # 7:  LDL Particle Size and Heart Disease 

 ReferenceWheat Belly by Bill Davis,  Eric Westman: The Ultimate Diet for Shedding Weight 

 You should know about LDLs from all the ads on TV.  “Lower your cholesterol and prevent a heart attack” they promise.  “Take our statin!”, they hawk.  It’s your LDL’s they are after, not your cholesterol per se.  And your money.  The current understanding is that it’s not really your cholesterol they are after but the number and size of your LDL particles. Small, dense, oxidized LDLs are troublesome.  They are the ones that weasel their ways into your arteries and start the plaque formation in your artery walls.  Just take a pill and don’t change anything.  We’ll allow you to live the lifestyle you are used to.  (SAD but true: SAD stands for Standard American Diet) 

 We have done articles before about LDLs and HDLs.  By and large, HDLs are protective and function as your body’s garbage trucks. They scour your system for left-over cholesterol cells don't need and take it back to your liver for reprocessing.  You want a high HDL count.  But more importantly, you want a low LDL count.  They are your body’s teenagers, carelessly throwing garbage out the window of their cars, littering your body with trash.  But LDLs aren’t so bad in and of themselves.  Large, fluffy LDLs are benign cholesterol carriers.  

Your body needs cholesterol in all of its membranes, so having a means of transporting it isn’t so bad.  Cholesterol is a more rigid fat and it gives structural integrity to every cell in your body.  You make it in your liver and use it everywhere.  Your liver receptors recognize large LDLs, pull them out of circulation and reprocess them.  It’s the little, dense LDLs that don’t fit in the liver LDL receptor and last longer in the blood (5 days versus 3).  And small LDLs get oxidized easier and get glycated easier, both of which cause them to participate in plaque formation more readily. 

 The question arises, “What does wheat do to my LDLs?”.  Simple.  The more you eat, the smaller, denser, more inflamed, and glycated your LDLs.  And the more wheat you eat, the lower your HDLs.  Pretty simple.  Both change.  The bad get worse.  The good get worse.  The reason is wrapped around the easily digested glucose, the rapid rise of sugar, and the subsequent quick response of insulin. 

 And that’s the trouble with wheat.  We grind it up into talcum powder flour and then process that into 20% of the calories we eat.  It’s not just bread, but cookies, cakes, donuts, tacos, cereals, bagels, muffins, brownies, croissants, pita, chapattis, breading on your fried food, croutons in your salad…..on and on.  Try going gluten-free and you will find just how ubiquitous wheat is.  Roughly 20% of America’s calories come from wheat.  In that regard, wheat is not alone in causing trouble.  Any freely available carbs will do the same.  Potatoes and rice aren’t much better. They just aren’t as common and don’t participate in as many products. In fact, you can look at your HDLs and measure how well you are doing on a low-carb diet.  Dr. Westman, at Duke, professes that he uses HDLs to measure compliance with low-carb diets.  Each person has an individual HDL sensitivity which can be discovered by measuring your HDLs as you gradually add carbs back.  Dr. Westman  has observed HDLs as high as 100 for folks on low carb diets for 5 years. 

 WWW. What Will Work for me!  The pattern is getting clearer.  We have an epidemic of heart disease, caused by small, dense, oxidized, glycated LDLs, caused by processed, refined carbohydrates, of which wheat is the most common.  Want to get better?  Cut the wheat!  Want big, fluffy, safe LDLs?  Eat more vegetables and meat. 

Pop Quiz

1.  What are LDLs?             Answer: a necessary transport system for taking cholesterol from the liver, where it is made, to the cell where it is used for making strong, healthy membranes.  

2.   What kind of LDLs are problematic.            Answer: Small, dense, oxidized LDLs.  Big fluffy ones are harmless.  The difference is actually subtle and just a tiny change in size, but it all relates to their size.  Below 20.5 is a problem.  Above is not.  The greater the incursion from that number, the greater the effect.   You want 21.4....not 19.7

3.   How do you change size?             Answer:  easy.  Anything made from wheat flour makes for food that raises your blood sugar quickly.  Your mitochondria in your liver get flooded with glucose.  They have to export fat quickly to keep up. So they make small, dense LDLs and you are off and running. Add some fructose to that and you can seal the deal.  Fast food with a milkshake will do!

4.    What other foods make for small, dense, LDLs?                 Answer: anything with easily digested carbs.  Potatoes and rice will do.  If you make ground up garbanzo beans and eat them instead of whole garbanzos, your LDLs will get smaller.  Any grain.  Any form of fructose.  

 Written by John E Whitcomb, MD  Brookfield Longevity and Healthy Living Clinic, 17585 W North Ave, Suite 160   Brookfield, WI 53045   262-784-5300