Ten years ago, small LDL was fairly common, affecting approximately 50% of the patients I'd see. For instance, an LDL particle number of 1800 nmol/l would be 40-50% small LDL in about half the people.
But in the last few years, I've witnessed an explosion in the proportion of people with small LDL, which now exceeds 80-90% of people. The people who show small LDL also show more severe patterns. 80-90% small LDL is not uncommon.
Why the surge in the small LDL pattern? Two reasons: 1) The extraordinary surge in excess weight and obesity, both of which favor formation of small LDL particles, and 2) over-reliance on processed carbohydrates, especially wheat-based convenience foods.
The constant media din that parrots such nonsense as the report on CNN Health website, Healthful Breakfast Tips to Keep You Fueled All Day, helps perpetuate this misguided advice. The dietitian they quote states:
"If you don't like what you're eating, you won't stick with it. If your choices aren't the most nutritious, small tweaks can make them more healthful. For example, if you have a sweet tooth in the morning, try a piece of nutty whole-grain bread spread with a tablespoon each of almond butter (it's slightly sweeter than peanut butter) and fruit preserves instead of eating foods that offer sweetness but little nutritional benefit, like doughnuts or muffins. If you enjoy egg dishes but don't have time to prepare your favorite before work, try microwaving an egg while toasting two slices whole wheat or rye (whole-grain) bread. Add a slice of low-fat cheese for a healthful breakfast sandwich that's ready in minutes. And don't overlook leftovers. If you feel like cold pizza (which contains antioxidant-filled tomato sauce, calcium-rich cheese, and lots of veggies), have it. It's a good breakfast that's better than no breakfast at all."
It sure sounds healthy, but it's same worn advice that has resulted in a nation drowning in obesity. The food choices advocated by this dietitian keep us fat. It also perpetuates this epidemic of small LDL particles.
If you have small LDL and its good friend, low HDL, it's time for elimination of wheat products, not some politically-correct silliness about increasing fiber by eating whole grains. Whole grains create small LDL! Or, I should say, what passes as whole grains on the supermarket shelves.
For some helpful commentary on this issue, see Fanatic Cook's latest post, Playing with Grains.