The Nation's Health + [Postprandial abnormalities]

LDL glycation

The proteins of the body are subject to the process of glycation, modification of protein structures by glucose (blood sugar). In the last Heart Scan Blog post, I discussed how glycated hemoglobin, available as a common test called HbA1c, can serve as a reflection of protein glycation (though it does not indicate actual Advanced Glycation End-products, or AGEs, just a surrogate indicator).

There is one very important protein that is subject to glycation: Apoprotein B.

Apoprotein B, or Apo B, is the principal protein of VLDL and LDL particles. Because there is one Apo B molecule per VLDL or LDL particle, Apo B can serve as a virtual VLDL/LDL particle count. The higher the Apo B, the greater the number of VLDL and LDL particles.

Because Apo B is a protein, it too is subject to the process of glycation. The interesting thing about the glycation of Apo B is that its "glycatability" depends on LDL particle size: The smaller the LDL particle, the more glycation-prone the Apo B contained within.

Younis et al have documented an extraordinary variation in glycatability between large and small LDL, with small LDL showing an 8-fold increased potential.

Think about it: Carbohydrates in the diet, such as wheat products and sugars, trigger formation of small LDL particles. Small LDL particles are then more glycation-prone by up to a factor of 8. Interestingly, HbA1c is tightly correlated with glycation of Apo B. Diabetics with high HbA1c, in particular, have the greatest quantity of glycated Apo B. They are also the group most likely to develop coronary atherosclerosis, as well as other consequences of excessive AGEs.

No matter how you spin it, the story of carbohydrates is getting uglier and uglier. Carbohydrates, such as those in your whole grain bagel, drive small LDL up, while making them prone to a glycating process that makes them more likely to contribute to formation of coronary atherosclerotic plaque.