fish oil LDL
Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Oxidized LDL and Your Health (A case for more animal fat?)*

written by Vin Kutty

comments 22 comments

Oxidized LDL is a much better predictor of ‘cardiovascular events’ than anything on your regular cholesterol panel. Tests for oxidized LDL are not easily available, but there are some things you can do to shift the odds in your favor.

Factors that affect LDL oxidation

1. The type of fats found in your LDL cell membranes

As we discussed in the last blog, the types of fat you eat determine how delicate your LDL cell membranes are. If you eat a lot of easily-oxidized Omega-3s and Omega-6s, you will have more LDL oxidation.*

 Percentage of ‘delicate’ Polyunsaturated Fats in Common Cooking Fats and Oils

Omega-6 and Omega-3 fat content of commonly used oils
Percentage of delicate fatty acids in oils. This combines both Omega-6 and Omega-3 fats. Source: USDA Nutrition Database.

 

Eat fish a few times a week or take fish oil supplements when you can’t eat seafood. The key point that I want you to notice in the chart above is that the oils you were told are ‘healthy’ (because they lower cholesterol) are the ones most likely to oxidize your LDL.

Duck fat and avocado oil are my unofficial cut off points. I avoid everything above it. This is the #1 reason why I avoid eating out. If I must, I order a salad with olive oil on the side.

Sit down and clutch your pearls, Agnes!

I cook generously with beef tallow, butter and coconut oil. I mail order beef tallow rendered from grass-fed cattle, my absolute favorite.

I do not fear saturated fats but you are welcome to. That they are harmful is, uh, a ‘faith-based initiative‘ and has been proven false over and over. Here. Here. Here. Here. Here. Here. Here. Here. Here. None of these references are light-weight blogs like this – they are published studies.

Your body is built to thrive on normal levels of both Omega-3 and Omega-6. Your body is built to function despite some levels of oxidation. Not the 20-fold increase in oxidation burden we are subjecting our bodies to…and that dramatic increase in oxidation comes almost exclusively from Omega-6, linoleic acid, in the form of vegetable cooking oils.

The level of pro-inflammatory, easily oxidized Omega-6 (Linoleic Acid) in subcutaneous body fat stores has increased 200% in the last half century. Adapted from: Whole Health Source blog by Dr. Stephan Guyenet.
The level of pro-inflammatory and easily oxidized Omega-6 fat (Linoleic Acid) in subcutaneous body fat stores has increased 200% in the last half century. Adapted from: Whole Health Source blog by Dr. Stephan Guyenet.

 

As an aside, when three generations of mice were given a similar, increasing levels of Omega-6, each generation got fatter, slower and dumber. This could never apply to us. Of course. Never.

2. Toxins

Toxins (think cigarettes, alcohol, BPA in plastics, most things in the cleaning and cosmetics aisles), free radicals etc. will consume the built-in antioxidants in the LDL – CoQ10 and Vitamin E. Once the antioxidants are exhausted, the LDL is exposed and vulnerable to oxidation.

3. Antioxidants

Your liver bundles LDL with CoQ10 and Vitamin E. Statin drugs for cholesterol reduction wipe out CoQ10 along with the cholesterol. And 90% of us don’t get enough Vitamin E from foods. Together, this also increases vulnerability to LDL oxidation.

4. Duration of circulation

How long the LDL particle stays around in the body also determines LDL oxidation. The longer it is in circulation, the more likely it is to get oxidized. LDL particle density influences this. 

Small, dense LDL particles (the bane of soda-guzzlin’ insulin resistant folk) have slightly higher ‘hang time’ in the body and are more likely to get oxidized. Go Cola!

5. Leaky gut

Stress, medications, gut dysbiosis, gluten, infections, and toxins can all make intestinal epithelial cells porous, hence the term ‘leaky’ gut. But gluten from wheat is the champ.

With a leaky gut, partially digested food and bacteria from food waste enter your blood stream. Bacterial cell wall components also oxidize LDL and are taken up by white blood cells and turn into foam cells which turns into plaque in your arteries.*

6. Nutrient deficiencies

Not enough Zinc and copper will make it hard for your body to make enzymes that remove oxidizing substances from your body. When that happens, again, LDL gets oxidized. (Eat liver, nuts, shellfish, sesame seeds, oysters and beef.)*

7. Glucose

How much sugar, carbs and grains (yes, even ‘healthy’ whole grains) you eat affects LDL oxidation. Sugar binds to LDL and speeds up oxidation.

8. Hypothyroidism

Low thyroid levels reduce LDL receptor activity, which causes LDL to remain in circulation and allows greater exposure to oxidants. Low thyroid due to diet-induced autoimmune hypothyroidism (see #5, Hashimoto‘s), iodine deficiency, goitrogen activity from excessive soy, millet, raw cruciferous vegetables, pollution etc.*

Notice that most of the factors listed above are diet-related. Pills can’t help you here.

Not surprisingly, Big Pharma and medical establishment react with a yawn and continue to pump us full of statins.

But, oh, never mind that…

Turns out eggs and butter were only deadly during the Reagan and Clinton eras.

I could go on…this statin horse is far from dead.

There are no Rx drugs to reduce oxLDL

When diet is the best prevention tool for any illness, you won’t hear much about it. Because apparently you don’t want to. Can’t blame big pharma for everything. Sometimes you gotta look in the mirror.

Still, your great-grandmother probably didn’t have a terrible oxLDL problem. But you do. See graph above.

Our bodies are meant to operate quite nicely on fats found in olive oil, butter and yes, even lard and tallow. Human breast milk is rich in cholesterol and saturated fat – almost two third of the calories of breast milk comes from saturated fats.

Lard vs Olive Oil

Would you believe me if I told you that do-no-wrong olive oil is very similar to kill-you-dead lard? They both are mostly oleic acid. Yup – the #1 fatty acid in both lard and olive oil are the same. Years of brain-washing from the media might make you avoid lard, tallow or butter, but they all contain fats that don’t oxidize easily. Go ahead, ask a teenager if he/she even knows what tallow is.

In my house, people get in trouble for throwing away bacon fat. Kids eat fruits, eggs and bacon for breakfast. And daddy gets to make scrambled eggs in bacon fat. Yum.

Either way, you won’t see a bottle of Canola within a mile of my kitchen.

What now? More lard and less Lipitor?

Them’re fightin’ words to many of you out there. I’m just pointing out evidence that made me scratch my head (and alter my diet.)

But what you do is up to you and your doctor. Don’t wing it! I see three different integrative/functional MDs.

Based on what causes increased oxLDL production, it seems to me (and my doctors) that reducing Omega-6-rich vegetable oils and replacing them with low-Omega-6 fats makes sense. Along with making sure you’re not taking anything to nuke your CoQ10 levels.

Cutting out wheat and sugar seems prudent regardless.

 

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

  1. Hey Vin, I noticed that I bruise more easily when I take fish oil supplement (currently 1 omegavia softgel and 1-2 servings of wild caught salmon a week). It’s not that this is a major change compared to when I wasn’t taking fish oil supp, but it’s noticeable nevertheless. I don’t have any conditions so should I be worried or is this normal?

    • Hi Kenny – it is definitely worth having your doctor take a look at it. Excessive bruising can be due to nutritional deficiencies, medications or some other reason. I don’t recall hearing this associated with Omega-3 supplements. If you want to go without fish oil supplements for a month and see if you notice a difference, it may help narrow down the reasons.

    • Hi Kenny P.

      This indicates an underlying health issues. Omega 3 thins blood which is very helpful for the majority with unhealthy diets. However, when you have a clotting issue, you get bruised easily, omega 3s makes it more obvious as it thins the blood. If you bleed easily or nosebleed for a long while, you have a clotting issue. And if you ate Kale, which has huge amounts of K1, and the bruising does not stop, or bleeding, then your liver isn’t producing enough clotting factors.
      Explain this to your doctor and request a specialist and blood test. This could also indicate leukemia. You need to test for verification.
      Omega 3s are very useful and a requirement, omega 3s did not cause your bruising, rather it uncamouflage an underlying health problem.

  2. Hi Vin: Is there a reason why fish oil is not listed among the oils on the chart above? Also, I take an astaxanthin capsule every day and sometimes a ubiquinol (I am not on any prescription medication). Do you think these supplements help fight the oxidation of LDL? (My LDL is on the high side but my triglycerides are in the low range of normal.) Thanks.

    • Hi Brian – good point. Fish oil would be all over the place. Basic oil would be at 30% near Canola and something like OmegaVia would be at the top just above Safflower. Just goes to show that all Omegas-3s and 6s should be consumed in moderation. Cutting back on Omega-6s should be a new year’s resolution!

      Astaxanthin and CoQ10 COULD reduce oxLDL. I’d add a mixed tocopherol/tocotrieneol to your regimen. Your liver bundles LDL with both CoQ10 and Vitamin E – there is some evidence that says CoQ10 or Vit E by itself does not do much as antioxidants, but together, they do.

      • Hi Vin – if fish oil can be up above Safflower oil, then is it safe to grill or broil fish or must fish be gently cooked at low temps to prevent oxLDL forming?
        Thanks

        • Hi Mike – the only solid evidence on this shows that deep frying at high temps removes some of the benefits of eating fish. So, yes, gentler cooking is always best. Fortunately, it does not take high temps to cook fish if you’re not deep frying.

  3. Hello,
    What about evening primrose oil or borage oil?
    Do you think they contribute to this LDL oxidation?
    Thank you very much
    Kiki

    • Hi Kiki – they can, but most people only take these are supplements and in small quantities, so their effect will be very minor. Most LDL oxidation from other sources listed in this article.

  4. I just got my hands on a consistent supply of pastured eggs from a family at my church. Man they are delicious and I love seeing those orange, not yellow, yolks!

  5. Hi Vin –
    I take 3 of your fish caps (one per meal, which I usually get from Amazon with their PRIME free shipping) and that is about 3000 mg of the ‘good stuff’. So my question is this business of oxidation LDL damage.
    Will oxLDL be prevented at this 3000 mg level by also taking anti-ox supplements at the same meal?
    If so, which supplements would possibly work best? I am currently trying alpha lipoic and ubiquinol, along with C and D but don’t have any way of knowing if this actually reduces oxLDL. Do you think this will reduce oxidation effectively?

    Thanks,
    Mike

    • Hi Mike – 3000 mg of Omega-3 is not quite high enough to worry about contributing to oxLDL. Usually, people eating a standard american diet consume 10,000 mg up to 30,000 mg or more of Omega-6 per day. Having a medium or large order of fries at McDonald’s will get you close to that range. So putting the greatest danger first, we all need to seriously cut back on Omega-6. This will then allow you to take less Omega-3. It’s a win-win.

      As far as antioxidants, you’re better off depending on dark colored berries, green leafy veggies and spices for antioxidant benefits. If I were to pick supplement to add to those foods, I’d go with a combination of tocopherols, tocotrieneols, CoQ10 and alpha lipoic acid. And turmeric/curcumin too. Preferably taken with your Omega-3. Will it completely prevent or eliminate oxLDL production? Dont know. Probably not, but there are lots of shades of gray here. There are no black and white answers, at least not yet.

  6. When I turned 65 (I’m now 75) I was having chest pains. My cardiologist ran me through a series of tests, which culminated with a Gamma Ray camera study. What those tests indicated is that I had no visible plaque buildup resulting in a low risk of heart attack, so much so the cardiologist paid me to be a control patient in a heart study that he was heading up sponsored by General Electric. What equally stunned me is when inquiring as to why the results were so positive, especially in light of my outrageous cholesterol over the years (250-300), the cardiologist merely said; “it happens sometimes” ………….. a very dissatisfying answer. It turns out, by the way, that Theophyline, which I had been taking for 20 plus years, was the culprit related to my chest pains.

    Since that time I’ve come to understand the relationship between coronary artery disease and oxLDL . In 1993 I started taking Pycnogenol, later on switching to Grape Seed Extract (GSE) when it became available. It seems to me that the French Paradox gives credence to Grape Seed Extract as the main anti-oxidant chemical Oligomeric Proanthocyanidins (OPC) is very prevalent in red wine. I’ve been taking GSE ever since. I’ve also come to understand the importance of Co-Enzyme Q-10 and it’s relationship to LDL, incorporating that supplement into my daily regime.

    • Hi Bob – thanks for adding your thoughts to this discussion.

      A few opinions:
      1. Total cholesterol of 250 or so is not outrageous. It is slightly high, that’s all. And does not necessarily indicate imminent cardiac failure as we’ve believed. Frankly, total cholesterol is a very poor indicator of cardiac health.
      2. You’re better off with Pycnogenol. It has ton of clinical science behind it. Yes, it is expensive, but is an amazing and thoroughly studied compound. OPC content and profile may be different than what’s available as grape seed extract.
      3. The French paradox may not be a paradox at all. The French may be health BECAUSE they eat so much fat and very little refined and processed foods. A little red wine certainly helps things along. This new study supports my position: http://advances.nutrition.org/content/7/4/706.full
      4. Yes, CoQ10 is valuable.

      Protecting your LDL from oxidation involves reducing Omega-6 rich foods, and the other half dozen or so factors outlined in the article.

  7. Greetings –

    Unfortunately my cardiologist has me on 10mg of Atorvastatin because I have a heart stent that was inserted August 2015. They actually forgot to put me on it and when they realized the mistake told me I needed to take it when I saw them in November 2016. I hate taking it but they say my stent will clog if I don’t get the LDL down.

    Interestingly my numbers November 8 were: Total cholesterol 205, LDL 151. They said the LDL needed to be around 100. When I had another blood test January 3, 2017 my numbers were: 159 / 97. I don’t particularly like that 159 but I’m sure the cardiologist will love it.

    The question is, how did it drop so quickly with just 10mg of Statin? I’ve also been taking Advanced Lipid Control from Life Extension and NoFlush Niacin from the same company. I also took CholestPure from Pure Encapsulations but I’m out of that right now. I’ve also been taking heavy doses of MK-4 for a few months, up to 45mg. This week I’ve added MK-7 after reading your article. I have the MK-4 in bulk.

    Is it possible the natural products lowered the LDL?

    I don’t know what to do. I hate taking the Statin but I don’t want the stent to get clogged. I don’t like the options you put forth taking the Statin. And I don’t know what lowered the LDL so quickly. I also take 75mg of Clopidogrel as a blood thinner. Will the K2 accomplish the same purpose as the Statin?

    I have HTN so take Lisinopril and Nifedipine for it along with Isosorbide. I’m 72. The Clopidogrel has given me peptic ulcers.

    Your thoughts are much appreciated.

    Dave

    • Hi Dave – I’ll stick to answering questions that pertain to nutrition. The medical question can only be (legally) answered by your doctor. Your supplements cannot lower LDL to the degree you’ve noticed. You can do that with diet, but I’m not aware of any legal supplement that can drop LDL so quickly. But statins certainly can.

      45 mg of Vitamin K2 (MK-4) is overkill. K2 is not for keeping your stent unclogged. K2 keeps your arteries from developing calification. K2 does not lower LDL.

      • The only diet change I’ve made is cutting out sodas.

        My impression was that 10mg is low and wouldn’t lower the LDL that drastically. We just use olive and coconut oils.

        Thanks.

        Dave

  8. Pecans have a fair amount of omega 6’s yet studies show they significantly lower oxidized LDL (20 to 30%). They are a whole food with natural antioxidants. Seems consuming whole foods-raw not cooked or roasted- is different than just consuming an oil.

    Nuts in general seem to lower heart disease.

    Can you comment?

    • Hi Michael – nuts in general seem to help. This is my opinion: it is possible that the benefit comes from the overall nutrient density of nuts. After all, they contain several trace minerals and fiber, both soluble and insoluble. I’d say the benefits are despite the Omega-6 payload. If our diets weren’t already so artificially high in Omega-6, nuts would probably have an even greater benefit to health. A little bit of Omega-6 is essential. So, nuts in small quantities are certainly beneficial. I wouldn’t avoid them. Just try to keep it to a handful a day, no more.

    • Hi Deepak – there are quite a few studies showing correlation between ascorbic acid and oxidized LDL, but the protocol that you mention (as with most things related to Pauling) seems to carry a degree of debate. Overall, the science looks positive.

      Nothing offsets transgressions in diet, sleep, light exposure, and activity. There is always a price tag. Sorry.

Leave a Reply