Saturday, December 10, 2011

Understanding Fats, Triglycerides, Cholesterol, VLDL, LDL Interaction

You may be wondering, just what are triglycerides and how do they figure into the picture? Well, triglyceride is the form in which fat circulates in your bloodstream. Triglycerides are made up of three fatty acids — or fats — hooked up together. When you eat fat, it goes into your intestine, is absorbed across the intestinal walls and is hooked up in the form of triglycerides. Triglycerides are important because they are packaged together with cholesterol by the liver to make VLDL. The ratio of triglycerides to cholesterol in a VLDL particle is 5 to 1. So the more triglycerides you have, the more cholesterol your liver will produce to make VLDL. The higher your triglyceride level, the more VLDL you'll have in your system. And the more VLDL you have in your system, the more LDL will be produced which can deposit itself in your artery walls. Not all the triglycerides which circulate through your system and arrive in your liver will be packaged as VLDL. Triglycerides may also be burned off for energy in the liver by being broken down and converted into sugar. When fat is converted into sugar it raises the blood sugar level. Triglycerides also influence clotting. Small clots that form in the bloodstream are not broken down as rapidly by the body when there are a lot of triglycerides around. The triglycerides "coat" these little clots and prevent the enzymes that the body makes to break down clots from ever getting to the clots. Increased clotting combines with particles called platelets to contribute to the buildup of cholesterol in your arterial walls. 

Platelets are tiny particles in the blood that facilitate the clotting mechanism. As the blood passes through the arteries, rough areas on the inner wall caused by cholesterol buildup attract these platelets. The platelets then contribute to the buildup of plaque. The more obstructed the artery, the more slowly the blood moves through and the more readily the platelets fall out and mix with the cholesterol deposits, thus increasing the amount of obstruction. And increased clotting caused by triglycerides only makes platelets more effective in contributing to cholesterol deposits. Triglycerides can exist in your bloodstream in two ways. First, triglycerides circulate in your blood as a component of VLDL. As you know, the triglycerides are burned off as energy, leaving LDL cholesterol in your blood. Second, when you eat excessive amounts of fat, the fat circulates in your bloodstream simply as triglycerides before it reaches your liver. Some of this fat will never reach your liver but will go directly to the fatcells in your body and be stored as fat. Eating fat and cholesterol together, the way you do when you eat steak or a piece of cheese or fried chicken, puts you in double jeopardy. Recent findings show that the fat (triglyceride) and cholesterol link up in little particles called remnants. These remnants are quickly absorbed directly into the walls of the artery without going through the VLDL-LDL cycle, thus speeding up the progress of atherosclerosis. In my practice as a cardiologist I have seen some of the worst obstructions in the arteries of people who had extremely high triglyaeride levels. I believe that your triglyceride level should be less than 100 to be truly healthy, although traditional medicine gives an upper limit of 150. You hear a lot of talk about corn oil, which is cholesterol-free, and about polyunsaturated fats, which have been shown to lower the blood cholesterol levels. A study done at the Veteran's Administration Hospital in Los Angeles several years ago followed older men who were fed corn oil over an eight year period, comparing them to a control group which ate saturated fats. The men on the corn oil diet had fewer heart attacks than those who were eating saturated fats, but their incidence of cancer was higher. Both groups experienced the same number of deaths. More recent studies link a high fat intake, whether saturated or polyunsaturated, with a higher incidence of colon, breast and prostate cancer. It's true that polyunsaturated fats lower the serum cholesterol level, the amount of cholesterol that can be measured in the blood. My question is this: where is that cholesterol going? The liver can process only so much for removal from the body in bowel movements. And there's no other way for the body to get rid of cholesterol. That means it's being deposited somewhere. My hunch is that you'd find it in the liver and other organs—and probably in a growing layer of plaque lining the arterial walls. 

Hydrogenation of fats is a process that causes me grave concern. Manufacturers hydrogenerate fats by adding hydrogen atoms to the fat molecule. The resulting fat, such as margarine, is more convenient for the consumer to use. But it's no longer a natural substance. Its basic chemical nature has been changed, just the way the heating process used to produce cooking oils and the heat you use to fry foods chemically alters the fats. I have to wonder what happens when our bodies are faced with such unfamiliar substances. We don't know for sure that they're dangerous. But I don't want to be a guinea pig. Do you? My recommendation is that you avoid substances such as margarine, which is made from synthetic oils that have been highly processed. When you do use a little bit of fat, use a cold pressed oil, one that hasn't been heated. Remember, in the case of cancer as well as heart disease, frying animal protein is triply hazardous to your health. You are taking saturated fat and cholesterol, combining it with altered polyunsaturated fat in the cooking oil, and further changing it by subjecting it to intense heat There are two vegetable fats that are to be avoided. Recent research strongly points to both peanut and coconut oil as accelerating factors in heart disease. 

Coconut fat when injested in combination with cholesterol can induce atherosclerosis very rapidly. It is the main ingredient in non-dairy creamers. Peanut oil has a unique characteristic not common in other unsaturated fats. In experiments with nonhuman primates, it accelerated the development of their atherosclerosis.