Lots of talk about Cholesterol – What do the other fats on your blood test mean?
HDL’s, LDL’s, Triglycerides & Cholesterol – let’s have a look at each of them a little closer and learn why they matter.
Difference between triglycerides and cholesterol
Triglycerides and cholesterol are both lipids (fats). They both circulate in the blood stream- fats in your blood stream are required and normal. Fats get carried through the blood vessels by carriers called lipoproteins. The wrong levels of either can cause heart and circulatory problems. The difference between the two is in the structure- I won’t pain you with the breakdown of Carbons and Hydrogen’s of each fat, however it is those carbon and hydrogen elements that determine the different ways each lipid will perform inside your body – whether they will be pro or anti inflammatory.
Triglyceride Structure- what is a Triglyceride?
The liver builds triglycerides from the breakdown of foods you eat. It’s the raw elements of glucose and fatty acids within the foods you eat, which build an individual glucose molecule into a chain, that chain is then called a glycerol. Three fatty acids (fats) attach to the glycerol base- this structure is now termed a Tri – glyceride – Simple!
These fats- the triglycerides, can be stored in the liver, which is not ideal on mass as nobody wants a fatty liver, or sent to the rest of the body to be stored intramuscularly. When the body needs energy, it breaks apart the fatty acids from the glycerol base. The fatty acids and glucose then enter the mitochondria inside the cells of the muscles to produce energy, and away we go, ready to crank out another kilometre of jogging thanks to our fats we have stored. Any excess free fatty acids enter the blood stream and return to the liver where they are re attached to a glycerol, creating another triglyceride before being stored again. Ingesting an excess of foods that turn into triglycerides within your body – such as grains fructose & sugars, will create overall obesity throughout your body and the well documented Fatty Liver. Excess blood levels of triglycerides are also known as hyper triglyceridemia, and contribute to atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease.
Higher levels of triglycerides can indicate poorly controlled Type 2 Diabetes, hypothyroidism, liver disease or kidney disease. At normal levels- repeat, normal levels, triglycerides are important in the production of energy for most cells in the body -except brain cells- fatty acids need to be converted to ketones to be able to provide energy to the brain- but ketones and Ketogenisis are another article all together. So as you can see- Triglycerides are not an ideal fat to have at high levels in your body- they induce inflammation and disease and I can’t see why educating the public about grains and other triglyceride forming fats is not happening on a large scale, rather – we are hearing through media that Cholesterol is the bad guy – which perplexes me considering the positive role of cholesterol within the body- which leads us on to our next fat- Cholesterol!
Why Cholesterol is amazing for our brain cardiac function and longevity
Given all the negative press around Cholesterol, not to mention the need for most doctors to want you to jump on the Stain drug band wagon – you would think cholesterol was a fat sent to us by a super villain to destroy our villages – this could be farther from the truth. Statin drugs rake in 20 million dollars alone, per year for the pharmaceutical industry.
Cholesterol is at the top of the hormone table; we need Cholesterol to make many other hormones in our body. If a part of the aging process is due to our hormones depleting naturally, why then would we want to advise someone that Cholesterol- king of the hormones, is bad for us if it is low? It just doesn’t make sense does it.
Cholesterol helps build sex hormones such as Testosterone, Progesterone & Oestrogen, adrenal hormones such as DHEA & the stress hormone cortisol. We need plenty of it.
Our brain is 70% fat for goodness sake, our brain loves and thrives on fat in our diet.
Personally I like my men with Testosterone and a sex drive, and as a woman, I enjoy getting my period and knowing that I can still give birth given that my Cholesterol levels enable my body’s production of adequate Progesterone and oestrogen. Cholesterol is a part of every cell membrane.
Cholesterol produces Vitamin D when skin is exposed to sunlight.
You will not absorb calcium without adequate Vitamin D – no calcium in the bones and that is an un-welcome hello to osteoporosis. Vitamin D increases immunity and zee Pièce de résistance – Vitamin D deficiency is linked to a higher risk of cancer which is confirmed in over 200 epidemiological studies. It is with thanks to Cholesterol that our Vitamin D levels are kept adequate.
Cholesterol supports the production of bile, which is a substance used to help digest fats and absorb fat soluble vitamins such as Vitamin A, D, E and K – last I read, us humans benefit from absorbing our vitamins, so thanks but no thanks to reducing my cholesterol Mr Statin!
The Liver produces 2 grams of cholesterol per day, making up about 85% of blood cholesterol levels. The other 15% comes from a person’s diet. Most cholesterol from diet comes from oils and fats in foods. The liver also produces bile acids from Cholesterol to be stored in the Gallbladder; bile acids break down oils and fats that you eat- assisting to reduce fats within your blood and liver – yet another reason why you don’t want low levels of cholesterol!
Your liver is the vital organ within the whole process of cholesterol, hormone and bile production and the breakdown of fatty acids. If your liver is not clean and free of fat build up- the well documented term knows as Fatty Liver, your body will not eliminate toxins, filter blood or produce the enzymes required to function properly. This is why the liver is THE most important organ in the body to reduce the onset of age related disease and inflammation. Granted- if your heart stopped, well then, you would probably stop too, so it’s a big call actually nominating a single organ to be the most important, however the liver conjugates every and all enzymes within your body and sends those enzymes off to every other organ and area of the body to function, therefore, if the liver is compromised – and being full of fat is compromised, eventually every other organ in the body will become compromised.
There are two Types of Cholesterol
Low density lipoproteins (LDL) cholesterol- it is touted as the “bad” cholesterol when its level in the blood stream is high because it is the fat that sticks to the walls of your arteries. Your liver makes LDL cholesterol when you eat grains- so if you are looking to reduce your LDL cholesterol, totally eliminating grains from your diet for a while is a great idea. However not all LDL fats are bad, LDL cholesterol carried important molecules to our brain. You need to be aware if you have LDL oxidation- that is the risk factor.
High density Lipoproteins (HDL) cholesterol- is called the “good” cholesterol because it helps transport fats from the walls of your arteries and back to the liver to be processed. HDL’s are formed by eating Omega 3 fats. You will find these fats in Mackerel, Salmon, Tuna, flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts and hemp seeds. The Ratio of Omega 3:6 should be 1:1 most people are consuming a ration of 15:1! Fish sources are your best sources of Omega 3 fats because the body needs to convert the Omega 3’s into EPA & DHA – this conversion is best done from fish sources as the body only partially converts Omega 3 fats from vegetarian sources. However again, as with LDL cholesterol, the basic number on your blood test gives you half a picture. What if your HDLS are high?
What matters with your HDL’s & LDL’s is also the literal particle number and size of your fats- this is something standard tests do not show you.
The current standard blood lipid tests doctors are offering are not specific, nor accurate enough.
Most people believe that simply having an elevated HDL is a good sign that you are eating lots of heart healthy Omega 3 fats- and that may be the case, however elevated HDL can also be a sign of oxidated LDL cholesterol. How do you know if your LDL’s are oxidized? Well you need to ask your practitioner to provide you with a specific test. These tests are not yet available in Australia, but you can easily have your blood work sent off to Germany to have it tested and back within 21 days.
Imu Pro are a pathology lab that offer this test. They will give you a picture of your oxidised LDL’s, a lipo scan and fatty acid test.
The oxidized LDL gives you additional analysis of arteriosclerosis risk and therapy through the identification of oxidised LDL cholesterol particles, determining whether you are at risk of heart attack or stroke.
The Fatty Acid Status Test determines your pro- and anti-inflammatory status by differentiation of saturated, mono-unsaturated, poly-unsaturated and trans fatty acids. This test can be used to guide you in your change of diet and supplemental therapy based on their ratio of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids.
LipoScan is an advanced procedure that determines your actual heart attack risk by means of a differentiated analysis of LDL sub fractions. LipoScan identifies a patient’s true atherogenic risk caused by the presence of highly atherogenic small dense LDL and IDL particles which often hide behind normal cholesterol levels.
These lifesaving tests are available to you by visiting a natural therapies practitioner. If your practitioner has not heard of them, let them know. They are able to source the test kits for you. These tests are like any other tests, in that they must be ordered by a medical doctor, or registered health care professional such as a nutritionist or naturopath