What to Eat: The diet is defined by small LDL

I approach diet from the perspective of small LDL particles.

Small LDL particles have exploded in frequency and severity in Americans. It is not at all uncommon to see 70% or more small LDL particles (i.e., 70% of total LDL particle number or Apo B) on lipoprotein testing. (I saw two people today who began with over 95% small LDL.)

Small LDL particles are:
--More likely to persist in the bloodstream longer than large LDL particles.
--More likely to adhere to components of atherosclerotic plaque.
--More likely to gain entry to plaque.
--More likely to be taken up by inflammatory white blood cells which, in turn, become the mast cells that fill coronary plaque.
--More likely to be oxidized.
--More likely to be glycated (8-fold more likely than large)

To add insult to injury, foods that trigger small LDL formation--i.e., carbohydrates--also cause high postprandial blood sugars. High postprandial blood sugars, in turn, glycate small LDL. That combination of events accelerates 1) plaque growth, 2) plaque instability, and 3) aging.

So carbohydrates trigger this sequence, carbohydrates of all stripes and colors. Not just "white" carbohydrates, but ALL carbohydrates. It's all a matter of degree and quantity. So, yes, even quinoa, bulghur, and sorghum trigger this process. I've only recently appreciated just how bad oats and oatmeal are in this regard--really bad.

Foods that trigger small LDL also trigger higher blood sugars; foods that trigger higher blood sugars also trigger small LDL. Small LDL and blood sugar are two different things, but they track each other very closely.

So, in the Track Your Plaque approach to diet, we craft diet based on these simple principles:

1) Eliminate wheat, cornstarch, and sugars--These are the most flagrant triggers of small LDL, blood sugar, and, therefore, LDL glycation.
2) The inclusion of other carbohydrates, such as oatmeal, quinoa, rye, etc. depends on individual sensitivity. Individual sensitivity is best gauged by assessing one-hour postprandial glucose.

Stay tuned for more in this series. Also, Track Your Plaque Members: We will be having an in-depth webinar detailing more on thees principles in the next couple of weeks.

Comments (15) -

  • Anonymous

    4/9/2010 8:44:03 PM |

    How ia ApoB test used to know small LDL? Particle count exams aren't available in my area but ApoB is. So I'd like to know how to read this test.


  • Dana Law

    4/10/2010 12:45:03 AM |

    Dr. Davis,
    Please give us an eating plan.  You rant about people making lousy decisions with food.  We need some direction.  What are you eating?  Please tell us.  I find this part the most difficult.  I know I've improved in my quality of food.  Three times a day I need to make the best choices.  It's like being married to a nymphomaniac. You have to have to satisfy the healthy needs of your body, everyday!
    I believe you know what you are talking about.  You've improved our lives but tell us, please, what you are doing personally, day by day, to make those LDL particles small.  
    Dana Law
    San Diego, Ca
    P.S. This is a rant.  We need your help.

  • Taylor

    4/10/2010 5:48:55 AM |

    Love your blog, sir. I've been reading up over the last couple weeks--one question I couldn't find answered, though, was which glucose monitor you'd personally recommend? There are a lot of them out there on the market and I'm completely at a loss for how to tell them apart!

    Thanks for all the important work you do.


  • ET

    4/10/2010 11:04:36 AM |

    For me, reducing carbs to <90g/day did little to improve my small, dense LDL.  My LDL particle number was over 2,000 and my small, dense LDL >1,600.  Increasing my saturated fat intake and niacin dropped my small, dense LDL to <120 in less than a year.

  • JC

    4/10/2010 11:26:38 AM |

    Many of those who live in the "green zones" have a high carb diet and yet live long healthy lives.Maybe the type of carb really is important.

  • Peter

    4/10/2010 11:47:32 AM |

    Re: the cultures that eat high carb but have low rates of diabetes (Japan) do they have low post-prandial scores and low small LDL particles despite lots of rice or corn and beans?

    I'm wondering why some very high carb cultures have so little obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.

  • Lou

    4/10/2010 2:09:54 PM |

    For people who are confused of what to eat, etc - check out Whole Health Source website. Very helpful.  Check out diabetes and diet under LABELS on the right side that Stephan explains in more details why, how, what, etc works.

    If there's a diet book that you can buy from a bookstore, Paleo Diet would probably be the best but it's not perfect. It says to avoid but it's perfectly fine and even the author changed his mind and it's fine to consume them.

    Free The Animal website has helpful information on how to make dinners.

    Dana Law, there's not need to eat 3 times a day. It's not really required. You can have two very nutritional meal with high amount of fat and feel satisfied for a long time, preferably break fast and dinner with maybe handful of snack like pecan, almond, walnut. That's pretty much how I eat. We're not programmed to eat that often anyway. That's how blood sugar stays low.

    JC and Peter, you need to be more specific... are we talking about percentage of meal high in carbs or total amount of carbs? Two entirely different things. We eat way more carbs than those people, I bet. I'd have to travel to those places to see that myself because I don't believe anything media tells us.

  • Paula

    4/11/2010 12:25:10 AM |

    Dr. Davis's "eating plan" is available to Track Your Plaque members.  I've been a member for over a year, and I can't tell you how much I've learned.  Check out the website at trackyourplaque.com and sign up!

  • Anonymous

    4/11/2010 7:35:20 AM |

    Dana, stop your ranting.  Your air of entitlement is annoying.  The fact that Dr. Davis graciously gives of his time to post some of his insights and advice does not make him a servant at your beck and call.

  • Anonymous

    4/11/2010 1:30:51 PM |

    ET, thanks for your post.  Some folks get carried away with Paleolithic diet or nothing. For those of us who prefer to limit our meat consumption, 2-3grms/day Niacin is a must.

    Dr D is always solid about whether his information is anecdotal or based on clinical trials.  If you would like additional supporting evidence for Niacin and its effects on LDL particle size, check out lipdsonline.org and search "niacin"

    " As in previous studies, niacin therapy had no significant effect on LDL cholesterol concentrations; however, after 3 months of treatment the number of small and medium sized LDL cholesterol particles was significantly decreased in those given niacin compared with those given placebo"


  • Tom

    4/11/2010 2:35:58 PM |

    I agree that I find it pathetic that someone would rant on a free website and some of the very best information available anywhere.  Please stop it now.

    Other posters who are asking about meters, etc:  please review the prior blogs that are listed alphabetically on the left.  Jeez folks, make some effort will you?

    Tom C.

  • Gina

    4/12/2010 4:28:27 AM |

    Yeah! So good to hear you speak out re the quinoa, oats and other carbs. Seems I can get clients to consider letting go of wheat (surprising) but  they now think quinoa is the nectar of the gods. 15 years ago I had a hard time selling even a handful of quinoa and now it is the sweetheart of grains. go figure...oh yet  again it is about who is pushing the stuff. You suppose Ornish is involved ;)
    Great post yet again Doc!

  • Anonymous

    4/12/2010 6:45:36 PM |

    I don't see what is wrong with Dana's post..... maybe we are just a tad more relaxed, those of us who don't eat too much meat Smile

  • April

    4/13/2010 4:42:17 AM |

    yes,I agree that a diet high on carbohydrates and sugar makes people obese and increases the risk for them to be diabetic.

  • Anonymous

    6/26/2010 6:36:17 PM |

    Do any of the home cholesterol meters (Cholesetch , Cardiochek, etc.) measure LDL particle number (i.e. small dense vs. the large not-so-dangerous kind)?

    Would be nice to conveniently measure real ldl once a day!