The Nation's Health + [Niacin]

Lipoproteins: The dreaded small LDL particle

Brian is a 59-year old landscape architect whose starting CT heart scan score was 276 .

Brian's food choices at the start were deplorable: a pound of sausage per week, sometimes more; butter on anything and everything; up to two pounds of cheese per week; hot dogs; etc. His lipoproteins were accordingly just as miserable: low HDL, high triglycerides, excessive (postprandial, or after-eating) IDL. Small LDL was a particularly stand-out pattern, with 95% of all LDL particles in the small category.

Brian made a dramatic turnaround in lifestyle and corrected all of his patterns--except for small LDL. After one year, small LDL still occupied 95% of all LDL particles, even though the quantity of LDL had been reduced. In order to help convince Brian that correction of his small LDL was going to be necessary to achieve control oover coronary plaque, I suggested that he undergo another heart scan. His score: 435 , or a 57% increase.

Each day that passes, I gain more and more respect for small LDL as a cause for coronary plaque growth. Conventional thought among lipid experts is that small LDL should no longer be a factor if total LDL (e.g., LDL particle number) is reduced. But our experience suggests otherwise: when small LDL persists, we tend to see continued, sometimes frightening, plaque growth.

I therefore asked Brian to intensify his efforts: additional weight loss off his somewhat prominent abdomen (since visceral fat increases small LDL), further reduce wheat products and processed carbohydrates, increase niacin (to 1500 mg per day), and use more raw almonds and oat bran.

Don't let small LDL get the best of you. It is a nasty, sometimes persistent abnormality that has impressive effects on plaque growth.