This is an extract from Chapter 5 from my book and I thought about sharing it with you, just to give you a simple and straight idea of what it’s all about. I’m currently busting my … in the editing phase (May, 2014).
Cholesterol and Lipoproteins
Ever since the low-fat dogma has started circulating throughout the world, cholesterol has become some sort of public enemy number 1. Yet, very few people know that cholesterol and phospholipids are essential to normal life and that they are found in almost all the cells of our body.
We know that all cells are surrounded by a membrane . This membrane is predominant in phospholipids as you can see in the image above. These phospholipids make up the lipid bilayer of the membrane. Besides, one can observe the cholesterol droplets that are inside the lipid membrane. We could not function if the mechanisms producing phospholipids and cholesterol for all membranes would be deficient. The same goes for the brain, which is approximately 60% made of fat .
According to Chang, Ke, and Chen , fatty acids are among the most important molecules in determining human brain integrity. They consider that EFA (essential fatty acids) are needed to maintain a good state of health and that they cannot be synthesized by the body, which is why they have to enter the body by ingestion (eating fat). They reference studies that have related to impaired brain performance correlated to imbalanced dietary fat intake.
No wonder that I feel more mentally equipped ever since I started eating high-fat-very-low-carb. Again, it may be just me but I have an inclination for doing complex brain tasks such as that I developed a passion for studying the human metabolism and the human brain. If it weren’t for this ketogenic lifestyle, I wouldn’t have been writing this book now.
Even though Chang, Ke, and Chen  say that the body is not able to synthesize all the essential fatty acids it needs for good health, I know there are studies pointing out that little of the cholesterol that is ingested has an impact on blood cholesterol levels. Peter Attia considers that roughly 25% of the total cholesterol we have in our bodies is from what we eat, while the rest of 75% is synthesized by the human body .
If you can take a quick look at my blood samples after two months of high-fat nutrition (68-75% of total calories as fat), you can see that my total cholesterol has increased . When I started the experiment, I was not wise enough to measure anything other than total cholesterol. I didn’t know much about lipids, lipoproteins, and cholesterol back then.
At Day 0 of the experiment – 19.09.2013 – the total cholesterol was 162 mg/dL. In the context “normal” total cholesterol values lower than 200 mg/dL, I was on track. However, I do not know how much of it was TAG (triglycerides), how much of it was HDL-C, and how much of it was LDL-C.
Two months later – 12.12.2013 – my total cholesterol was showing 217 mg/dL. The general guidelines would say I had high-cholesterol levels, but let’s examine the facts. After two months of constant reading and lecturing on the human metabolism, I was a little wiser to measure the other markers mentioned above. I measured the triglycerides levels and they were 40 mg/dL, in the context in which normal triglycerides values are < 150mg/dL.
My LDL cholesterol was 124 mg/dL, while the normal values required it to be below 130mg/dL (so, it’s okay). My HDL cholesterol was 77.7 mg/dL in the context in which values higher than 35 mg/dL are considered normal. Triglycerides have increased to 74 mg/dL; however, they were still way below the 150 mg/dL risk level.
So, if you take a look at all these lipid biomarkers, they were all in the normal range, but the total cholesterol was higher than “normal”, showing 217 mg/dL. But, how is total cholesterol measured?
Total Cholesterol = LDLc + HDLc + TAG/5
Let’s fill in with my biomarkers from December 2013:
Total Cholesterol = 124 + 77.7 + 74/5
Total Cholesterol = 216.5 mg/dL
If there could only be a way to measure HDLc and LDLc by only knowing Total Cholesterol and TAG, now I would know the values of these two by plugging-in the data from the beginning of my experiment in late September.
I’m pretty positive there are ways to approximate these particles only by knowing TC and TAG, but I have not been curious enough so far to find them.
So, as long as each of the biomarkers are within a good range of values, I would not worry of what the Total Cholesterol formula shows up. The key take away in this case is that the cholesterol ingested has a little contribution to body’s total cholesterol because our bodies create most of the cholesterol they need. Besides, only about 20% of the cholesterol that is synthesized is created in the liver, while the rest of 80% is synthesized by the cells .
I could go further more into the details talking about lipoproteins. It is an extremely interesting subject to see how the fats ingested are taken from the intestines and delivered to the liver and to other parts in the body. However, I can spare you some time and invite you to view this amazingly interactive video that explains Lipoproteins, Apolipoproteins, and Familial Dyslipidemias .
Another key take-away is that when you restrict carbohydrates and increase fat intake, your lipid profile improves, a.k.a. all lipid biomarkers show better values.
Dr. Stephen Sinatra is a great heart physicians who is very well documented on the role of cholesterol in the human body, in the correlation between saturated fatty acids and heart disease, as well as in researches having to do with grounding (the idea that going bear-feet on the ground – being connected to Mother Earth) supports an exchange of electrons between the human body and the earth that leads to lower oxidative damage to the body and lower utilization of ATP for energy production). For starters, just read Dr. Sinatra’s book The Great Cholesterol Myth .
If you read the book (will be out in about 2 weeks) you will also see the amazing change in my lipid profile as I did a blood work at the end of March 2014 (and another one after 1 year in ketosis). I personally didn’t see that coming and it blew my mind with respect to the inappropriate message about fat that is promoted in the media.
Anyway, this is only my n=1 experiment. Please share your thoughts in either of the comment sections below.
Biochemistry – Lipids and the Plasma Membrane. Retrieved from http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Biochemistry/Lipids_And_The_Plasma_Membrane
Chang, C. Y., Ke, D. S., & Chen, J. Y. (2009). Essential fatty acids and human brain. Acta Neurol Taiwan, 18(4), 231-41.
Peter Attia – The Straight Dope on Cholesterol – Part I – Retrieved from http://eatingacademy.com/nutrition/the-straight-dope-on-cholesterol-part-i
Cristi Vlad – Privileged Metabolic State – 19.6% to 14.4% bodyfat in 2 Months [+Pics] – http://cristivlad.com/privileged
Lammert, F., & Wang, D. Q. H. (2005). New insights into the genetic regulation of intestinal cholesterol absorption. Gastroenterology, 129(2), 718-734.
Lipoproteins, Apolipoproteins, and Familial Dyslipidemias Made Simple – http://cristivlad.com/lipoproteins
Stephen Sinatra and John Bowden – The Great Cholesterol Myth: Why Lowering Your Cholesterol Won’t Prevent Heart Disease-and the Statin-Free Plan That Will – http://cristivlad.com/sinatra
Dr. Sinatra’s Page: http://www.drsinatra.com/