Group annotations on this page
nightsurfer on 2009-11-22The Diet-Heart Hypothesis: Subdividing Lipoproteins
Two posts ago, we made the rounds of the commonly measured blood lipids (total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, triglycerides) and how they associate with cardiac risk. It's important to keep in mind that many things associate with cardiac risk, not just blood lipids. For example, men with low serum vitamin D are at a 2.4-fold greater risk of heart attack than men with higher D levels. That alone is roughly equivalent to the predictive power of the blood lipids you get measured at the doctor's office. Coronary calcium scans (a measure of blood vessel calcification) also associate with cardiac risk better than the most commonly measured blood lipids.
Lipoproteins Can be Subdivided into Several Subcategories
In the continual search for better measures of cardiac risk, researchers in the 1980s decided to break down lipoprotein particles into sub-categories. One of these researchers is Dr. Ronald M. Krauss. Krauss published extensively on the association between lipoprotein size and cardiac risk, eventually concluding (source):
The plasma lipoprotein profile accompanying a preponderance of small, dense LDL particles (specifically LDL-III) is associated with up to a threefold increase in the susceptibility of developing [coronary artery disease]. This has been demonstrated in case-control studies of myocardial infarction and angiographically documented coronary disease.
Krauss found that small, dense LDL (sdLDL) doesn't travel alone: it typically comes along with low HDL and high triglycerides*. He called this combination of factors "lipoprotein pattern B"; its opposite is "lipoprotein pattern A": large, buoyant LDL, high HDL and low triglycerides. Incidentally, low HDL and high triglycerides are hallmarks of the metabolic syndrome, the quintessential modern metabolic disorder.
Krauss and his colleagues went on to hypothesize that sdLDL promotes atherosclerosis because of its ability to penetrate the artery wall more easily