Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Low fasting triglycerides: A marker for large-buoyant LDL particles

Small-dense LDL particles are particles that are significantly smaller than the gaps in the endothelium. The endothelium is a thin layer of cells that line the interior of arteries. Those gaps are about 25-26 nanometers (nm) in diameter. Small-dense LDL particles can contribute a lot more to the formation of atheromas (atherosclerotic plaques) in predisposed individuals than large-buoyant LDL particles.

Note that typically LDL particles are about 23-25 nm in diameter in most people, and yet not everybody develops atheromas. It is illogical to believe that evolution made LDL particles within those ranges of size to harm us, given the size of the gaps in the endothelium, unless you believe in something like this joke theory. There are underlying factors that make individuals much more prone to the development of atheromas than others.

One of those factors is chronic inflammation, which is caused by: chronic stress, excessive exercise (aerobic or anaerobic), and a diet rich in refined carbohydrates (e.g., white bread, pasta) and refined sugars (e.g., high fructose corn syrup, table sugar).

Can a standard lipid profile report tell me anything about my LDL particle pattern?

Yes, check you fasting triglycerides. If they are below 70 mg/dL, it is very likely that you have a predominance of large-buoyant LDL particles in your blood. That is, your LDL particle pattern is most likely Pattern A (see figure below, from: www.degomamd.com), the least atherogenic of the patterns identified by a Vertical Auto Profile (VAP) test. This test is more sophisticated than a standard lipid profile test, where the LDL cholesterol is typically calculated. For a discussion of a sample VAP test report, see this post.

So, you can get a rough idea about your LDL pattern type only by checking your fasting triglyceride levels on a standard lipid profile test report, if you cannot or do not want to have a VAP test done. The higher your fasting triglyceride levels are, above 70, the more likely it is that your LDL particle pattern is Pattern B, which is the most potentially atherogenic pattern.

Large-buoyant LDL particles often lead to high measured LDL cholesterol levels. This situation is analogous to that of water-filled balloons. If you have 10 balloons, each holding 0.5 L of water, then your total water amount is 5 L. If the same balloons are filled with 1 L of water each, then your total water amount is 10 L. That is, even though the number of LDL particles (analogous to the number of balloons) may be the same as that of a person with low LDL cholesterol, large-buoyant LDL particles have more cholesterol (water content in each balloon) in them, and lead to higher measured LDL cholesterol (total amount of water in the balloons) levels.

This leads to the counterintuitive situation where your LDL cholesterol levels go up, and your risk of developing cardiovascular disease actually goes down.

Also worth keeping in mind is that fasting triglyceride levels are strongly and negatively correlated with HDL cholesterol levels. The higher your fasting triglyceride levels are, usually the lower are your HDL cholesterol levels. The latter are also provided in standard lipid profile reports.

How do you decrease your fasting triglycerides?

A good way to start is to do some of the things that increase your HDL cholesterol.


Elliott, W.H., & Elliott, D.C. (2009). Biochemistry and molecular biology. 4th Edition. New York: NY: Oxford University Press.

Lemanski, P.E. (2004). Beyond routine cholesterol testing: The role of LDL particle size assessment. CDPHP Medical Messenger, May 2004.

1 comment:

Fran said...

This is about the only information I have been able to find about having super low triglyceride levels.
I had my cholesterol checked (in the UK) and the numbers came up as

7.1 total serum
0.8 triglyceride
2.32 HDL

I am trying to figure out if this is bad or good. I'm not sure how to convert the mol/l figures into US figures as there seems to be a lot more info citing US units out there.
I'd be grateful for any help with this!