Is remnant cholesterol a better marker for heart disease than LDL?

You’ve likely heard that having high levels of LDL cholesterol is linked to having a higher risk of developing heart disease.

That statement is generally accepted as fact by cardiologists and other medical professionals. But Dr. Bret Scher, Diet Doctor’s Medical Director, and a cardiologist himself, notes that in some specific situations, LDL’s association with heart disease risk does not hold true. 

“The strength of the correlation is not as strong as some people think,” explains Dr. Scher in last week’s DD News video. “With emerging data, we have to ask ourselves, “Is LDL the most important marker to follow?” 

In the DD News video, Dr. Scher notes that in some recent studies, the biggest predictors for heart disease risk were type two diabetes, hypertension, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome. In some studies, all of these health conditions far outweigh the risk of high LDL levels for heart disease.

In addition, Dr. Scher analyzes a new retrospective study from China that examined the charts, blood tests, and various diagnoses of more than 12,500 people, of which more than 8,500 were males, with an average age of 61. That study suggests that remnant cholesterol may be a more important marker of heart disease risk than LDL-C levels alone.

Frontiers of Cardiovascular Medicine: Association of Increased Remnant Cholesterol and the Risk of Coronary Artery Disease: A Retrospective Study

Remnant cholesterol is a special class of cholesterol that is made up of very-low density and intermediate density lipoproteins. “Basically, their makeup is more rich in triglycerides than rich in cholesterol. These are the particles that deliver Duthitriglycerides, and eventually can become LDLs,” explains Dr. Scher.

The video explains that people who are following healthy low-carb diets tend to have low levels of remnant cholesterol even though they are burning fat, like triglycerides, for energy. “The remnant cholesterol is low because you are using them up. They are not sticking around,” Dr. Scher says.

The study adds to growing evidence that remnant cholesterol is more associated with heart disease than just LDL-C levels alone, Dr. Scher notes.

“It is yet another piece of evidence that focusing on lifestyle changes that lower remnant cholesterol may be more beneficial than simply following your LDL-cholesterol level,” he says.

Also last week, Dr. Scher recorded a news video about a new study that examined the carnivore diet. Click through for more information:

Diet Doctor news Video: Is a carnivore diet healthy?

If you are interested in reading more about the carnivore diet, what is known and unknown, check out our guide.

Diet Doctor: Sinking our teeth into the carnivore diet, what’s known and what’s not

Each week, Dr. Scher creates two or three videos that review relevant or interesting scientific studies in the fields of nutrition, exercise, health, or disease and carefully analyses the researchers’ methods and findings. In doing so, he helps you better understand how to judge the quality of various research papers and make informed decisions about your own health and wellness. 

You can find more of Dr. Scher’s news videos on the Diet Doctor Youtube Channel. Subscribe to the feed so that you don’t miss any of his videos.

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