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Over sixty years ago, an unproven theory that cholesterol, particularly saturated fats, caused heart disease was introduced into the American psyche. At the time it was called, the “Lipid Hypothesis,” and while based on flawed science, it became the gold standard for screening heart disease ever since.
Today, the evidence is mounting against this theory, suggesting that high cholesterol has little to do with increased risk of heart disease.
One such study published in the prestigious medical journal, The Lancet, compared folks on a high cholesterol Mediterranean diet with those on a medically supervised low cholesterol diet. There was a 70% reduction in deaths and a 76% reduction in heart-related deaths in the group on the Mediterranean diet compared to the low cholesterol and low saturated fat diet. Interestingly, the group on the low cholesterol, low saturated fat diet showed no change in their cholesterol or LDL (bad cholesterol) levels.
While this and many other studies have been suggesting that cholesterol alone is a lousy screening test for heart disease, the high cholesterol myth stands strong.
New science is suggesting that the overall cholesterol and LDL numbers are not significant. The type of cholesterol and whether they are small or large, or whether they are oxidized or not, along with blood sugar, stress and inflammation issues tell the real story. (2)
In this article, I want to share with you a simple way for you to interpret your existing cholesterol test at home, and more accurately determine whether or not you are at risk for:
- Insulin Resistance (4)
- The wrong types of small damaging LDL cholesterol particles (3)
- Heart Disease (3)
In the scientific journal, Circulation, published for the American Heart Association, a Harvard study is cited which suggests a strong link exists between triglyceride levels and HDL as a predictor of heart disease. (3)
These two tests will appear on every cholesterol test you have had done in the past 20 years, so pull it out and follow along:
On your blood test, just divide the triglyceride level by the HDL number to get your Triglyceride/HDL ratio.
For example, if your triglycerides are 100 and your HDL levels are 50 you have a ratio of “2,” because you have twice the amount of triglycerides as you do HDL levels. (100/50=2)
In the study, those with the highest ratio had up to sixteen times the risk of cardiovascular issues. A good ratio is a “2”, like in our example above. A problematic ratio is a “5” or higher.
So, if your ratio is above a “2,” there is strong evidence suggesting that you have insulin resistance, the small damaging type of LDL cholesterol, and have an increased risk for cardiovascular issues.
Part 1 of this series on cholesterol: Writing Love Letters Lowers Cholesterol
Part 2 of this series on cholesterol: Saturated Fats and Cholesterol Exonerated
Part 3 of this series on cholesterol: Cholesterol: Size Matters