The Nation's Health + [Nutrition]

Lipoproteins: Useless low-fat diets

If you would like to read an ironic testimonial to the futility of conventional low-fat diets, read:

Cutting Cholesterol, an Uphill Battle on the New York Times website at

In this story, author and columnist Jane Brody recounts her struggles with her cholesterol levels. She describes how she followed an increasingly strict low-saturated fat diet, hoping to reduce LDL cholesterol. But she saw the opposite occur: LDL climbed from an initial 134 to 171, a level that caused her doctor to prescribe a statin drug.

Yet she states that "About 85 percent of the cholesterol in your blood is made in your body. The remaining 15 percent comes from food. But by reducing dietary sources of saturated fats and cholesterol and increasing consumption of cholesterol-fighting foods and drink, you can usually lower the amount of harmful cholesterol in your blood."

Had Ms. Brody and her doctor been just a bit better informed and performed lipoprotein analysis instead, they would have seen some obvious phenomena:

--All the increase in LDL was in the fraction of small particles, the sort highly likely to cause heart attack.

--The conventional LDL that she quotes is a calculated value that miserably misrepresents the real LDL when actually measured. Her calculated LDL of 171 mg/dl, in fact, was probably more like 220 to 250 mg/dl--much higher than they think.

Of course, Ms. Brody turns to her conventionally-thinking physician who then predictably prescribes a statin drug.

Ms. Brody's well-articulated story achieves the ironic, unintended result of proving the idiocy of the conventional low-fat diet. The low-fat diet, as currently practiced by most people, raises LDL cholesterol and escalates risk for heart disease. In fact, Ms. Brody probably increased her risk far more than suggested by a 30 mg increase in LDL.

One of my favorite blogs, the Fanatic Cook, has a tremendously insightful post on Ms. Brody's misadventures.

If all she did was eliminate all wheat flour containing products and reduce the overall glycemic index of her diet, she would witness an enormous drop in LDL cholesterol, both calculated and measured.

I hope that Ms. Brody survives her diet mistakes and her doctor's ignorance.