Fats are controversial and coconut oil has been getting a bad rap. Thankfully recent studies show which fats to embrace and which to avoid.
To know which fats are good for you you need to understand good HDL and bad LDL cholesterol. These are small fat and protein packages that transport cholesterol through the bloodstream.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) or good cholesterol protects arteries from cholesterol and removes excess plaque.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol accumulates in the arteries and narrows arteries with plaque (atherosclerosis).
Triglycerides. High levels are associated with heart disease and diabetes. Risk factors include smoking, physical inactivity, excessive drinking, overweight, and a diet high in sugars and grains.
Particle size and cholesterol health
HDL, LDL, and triglycerides are in in small and large particles. The large particles are harmless, while the small, dense particles are dangerous because they can accumulate in the arteries and cause inflammation and plaque that leads to heart disease.
Your doctor will note on your lab test:
- HDL versus LDL
- The ratio between triglycerides to HDL
- The ratio between total cholesterol and HDL
- Particle size
We now know the ratio between your HDL and your LDL, and especially the size of the particles, is more important than total cholesterol.
Also, the Mayo Clinic says total non-HDL may be more useful than your cholesterol ratio. You figure your non-HDL cholesterol by subtracting your HDL cholesterol number from your total cholesterol number.
Either option is a better risk predictor than your total cholesterol level or LDL level.
However, in some cases, a genetic tendency toward extremely high cholesterol may require medical intervention.
Are saturated fats ok?
Coming from tropical oils and animal products, saturated fats are solid or semi-solid at room temperature. Common sources are beef, pork, lamb, poultry skin, high-fat dairy, palm oil, and coconut oil.
Why are saturated fat controversial and associated with bad cholesterol and heart disease?
Four hand-picked studies done nearly 40 years ago ignore recent studies on fat intake. The old studies didn’t do take into consideration that saturated fats:
- Raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol.
- Change LDL (“bad”) cholesterol from dangerous dense particles to large particle LDL, which does not increase heart disease risk.
- Support brain health.
- Reduce stroke risk.
A recent meta-analysis showed no significant evidence linking dietary saturated fat with increased cardiovascular disease risk.
For some people it’s necessary to moderate saturated fat intake because:
- Saturated fat intake can cause more disruptive sleep (yet increased fiber can help increase sleep quality).
- ApoE4 carriers (increased Alzheimer’s risk) see a much higher spike in LDL cholesterol from high saturated fat in the diet, without a matching rise in HDL. They may benefit from lower intake of saturated fat which can lower LDL cholesterol and improve HDL/LDL ratio.
- A small percent of the population does experience high LDL along with increased inflammation levels measured by C-reactive protein.
Ask my office about a diet that is sufficient in healthy fats, void of bad fats, and customized to your dietary needs.
How to learn if you have Hashimoto’s low thyroid
Many patients are not diagnosed with hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s until after several years and going through several doctors. It is a demoralizing journey richly illustrated in my book The Truth About Low Thyroid: Stories of Hope and Healing for Those Suffering With Hashimoto’s Low Thyroid Disease, through real-life stories from patients in my practice. Managing Hashimoto’s goes far beyond using thyroid medication as you must work to stop the immune system from attacking the thyroid. For more information on identifying and managing Hashimoto’s low thyroid, contact my office.
About Dr. Josh Redd, Chiropractic Physician — Utah, Nevada, Arizona, Idaho, and New Mexico functional medicine
Dr. Joshua J. Redd, DC, MS, DABFM, DAAIM, author of The Truth About Low Thyroid: Stories of Hope and Healing for Those Suffering With Hashimoto’s Low Thyroid Disease, is a chiropractic physician and the founder of RedRiver Health and Wellness Center with practices in Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. He sees patients from around the world who suffer from challenging thyroid disorders, Hashimoto’s disease, and other autoimmune conditions. In addition to his chiropractic degree, Dr. Redd has a BS in Health and Wellness, a BS in Anatomy, and a MS in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine. He speaks across the nation, teaching physicians about functional blood chemistry, low thyroid, Hashimoto’s, and autoimmunity. You can join his Facebook page here.