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High HDLs and the Risk of Heart Disease

April 14, 2015

We hear all this stuff about Low-density lipoprotein (LDLs) and statins, but no one ever talks about High-density lipoprotein (HDLs) and how protective they are. They are protective. Ostensibly their duty is to scour around and pick up extra fatty acids that they can bring back to the liver for processing. Small, dense HDLs are just as problematic is small, dense LDLs. You want to have big, fluffy HDLs just like you want to have big, fluffy LDLs. Now, that’s the traditional medical interpretation of HDLs. It markedly underestimates their role and their value. You want higher HDLs. It should be one of your health goals.

What this study shows is an elegant demonstration of the inverse relationship between heart disease risk and HDLs. Following 11,515 men and 12,925 women for 307,245 people years of follow-up, the researchers were able to show that HDLs inversely correlated with heart disease risk. The higher your HDLs, the less heart disease risk you have. The lower your HDL, the deeper you are in doo-doo. Look at the graphs in the article (it’s open access) and you will see the decrease in heart disease risk in both men and women as you increase your HDLs. Men keep decreasing risk up to about 90 HDLs, and women up to about 75. That’s great!

Eric Westman, of Duke University and one of America’s leading weight loss experts, uses HDLs in his weight loss clinic. If someone’s HDLs are rising, they are losing weight and on track. We’ve known this phenomenon for years. But if you look over the studies in the literature, it has been masked and hard to see the pattern because most of the diets for weight loss are low-fat. Westman claims that when HDLs stop rising, he investigates precise dietary diaries and usually finds someone has started eating more carbohydrates, usually in the form of nuts. The client thought nuts were basically all fat, but in fact have enough carbs to sabotage both their weight loss and their HDLs rising. After a year of dieting on a low carb diet, Westman claims that many will achieve HDLs of 100 – thereby reaching a peak of cardiovascular risk reduction. Hmmm. That’s the opposite of what the American Heart says.

Ok, explain a simpler theory. Here is mine. I believe that LDLs are simply transport tools in your body taking fats manufactured in your liver out to fat cells to be stored. HDLs are their remnant and essentially reflect unused LDLs. In the world of modern analogies, I call LDLs full 18 wheelers taking manufactured inventory from the factory (your liver) to the warehouse (your fat cell). HDLs are empty 18 wheelers, sitting in the parking lot waiting for the dispatcher to give them something to do. Throughout all of human history, we had carbs only seasonally at the end of the growing season, when we gorged on them, put on weight and had a seasonal rise in our LDLs. The rest of the year, we ate fat and protein, lost weight and had our HDLs climb. HDLs will climb when you are on a high fat, low carb diet. They will keep climbing as you lose weight and progressively decrease the biological demand for LDLs to transport fats. You want more HDLs and a lower Total Cholesterol/HDL ratio. The Quebec Study proves that. The lower your TC/HDL ratio, the lower your risk for heart disease.

WWW. What will work for me? Ok, I was intrigued with this data. I’ve spent my entire career trying to raise my own miserable HDLs of 28. My father had heart disease and was diabetic. With running two miles a day and taking 1000 mg of Niacin (the two recommendations to raise your HDL from American Heart) until my face flushed bright red, I got my own HDLs all the way up to 32. Whoop dee doo! Since January 1, I have averaged a 70% fat, under 15% carb diet. I have lost 25 pounds and my HDLs just got in. I hit 61 in just 3 months. My LDLs didn’t fall but my ratio is now under 3, for the first time EVER. If this was just me, I would keep private. But I’ve demonstrated this same phenomenon on dozens of folks willing to stick with it and get measured twice. In fact, it has worked on everyone so far. Must be something to it. Your enemy is not fat, it’s extra carbs. If you have high LDLs, it simply means you have overwhelmed the ability of your body to burn and process them, so your liver is turning them into fat and your body is transporting that fat to your fat cells. (No ifs, ands or butts!)

Reference: Wilkins JAHA 2014

John E. Whitcomb, M.D. is founder and medical director of Brookfield Longevity & Healthy Living Clinic. He is a Yale University School of Medicine graduate and is board certified in holistic and integrative medicine from Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Mildred Owen permalink
    October 3, 2015 6:00 pm

    Dr, Whitcomb said, “Your enemy is not fat, it’s extra carbs.” Please write an article on which fats to eat and which ones to stay away from, and why. Also include some healthy low carb foods. I enjoyed the article. I found it very helpful.

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