Three months ago, I made the switch to a low carb diet. I had two goals, one was to continue losing weight. The other was to improve my health and reduce my risk of heart disease. After reading a number of things, most recently Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes, I wanted to try a diet with very little carbohydrates and almost no sugar at all. I started a diet of mostly meat, eggs, cheese and vegetables (plus nuts and berries).
I have lost some more weight, another 10 pounds since I started. But I was also interested in the effect it would have on cholesterol and triglycerides. I hoped that it would lower my triglycerides, raise my HDL cholesterol and not raise my LDL cholesterol too much. Fortunately, I had my lipid profile done last December so I could compare. Here were the numbers then (the normal range is within brackets):
Triglyceride (mg/dl): 112 [40-160]
Cholesterol (mg/dl): 153 [<200] HDL (mg/dl): 31 [29-67] LDL (mg/dl): 100 [<130] TC/HDL ratio: 4.94 [<5]
Not a terrible profile by conventional standards. Everything is within normal ranges. Still, HDL is a little low and the ratio is just within normal range. And even though the triglycerides aren’t bad, there is plenty of room to push that lower.
So after three months of meat, eggs, cheese, veggies and nuts, what is my lipid profile now?
Well, first off, something in there is a red flag with my doctor, who wants to set up an appointment. Why don’t you take a look for yourself (previous numbers in brackets  ):
Triglyceride (mg/dl): 48 
Cholesterol (mg/dl): 224 
HDL (mg/dl): 56 
LDL (mg/dl): 158 
TC/HDL ratio: 4.00 [4.94]
First the good news, triglycerides are down… way down. And HDL is up. But there is also bad news, my overall cholesterol and LDL increased dramatically. So am I worried? A little. The conventional wisdom is that higher cholesterol is bad. But I’ve also read several things which suggest that high triglycerides are an even greater predictor of heart disease. Also, I remember from Good Calories, Bad Calories that all LDL cholesterol is not the same and that larger, fluffier LDL is not nearly as dangerous as smaller, denser LDL, and that the kinds of foods I’ve been eating should lead to fluffier LDL. If most of the increase in my LDL is due to the size of my LDL cholesterol, rather than the number of them, perhaps it’s further good news.
Quotes like this about triglycerides from www.healingdaily.com encourage me:
It is believed that the triglycerides/HDL ratio is one of the most potent predictors of heart disease. It is generally considered that if this number is below 2 the person is generally at a low risk of heart disease. So, the lower your triglycerides, or the higher your HDL, the smaller this ratio becomes.
However, I’m not sure of the veracity of the info on that site. I have some research ahead of me. I’d love to see some more definitive research on the actual relative risks of LDL, HDL and triglycerides, to see if I want to rearrange my diet to get my overall cholesterol back under 200.
UPDATE: Originally, I had 244 for my total cholesterol, but I got the actual report today and it’s 224, significantly better. That also changes my TC/HDL ration to 4.00. I’m a little happier with these numbers. I have decided to cut down on eggs a little bit, more like 1-2 a day instead of 2-3. And I should really get an exercise program going. That should also have a positive effect on several of these numbers.