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LipoScience’s NMR LipoProfile Test: A Revolutionary, More Accurate Lipid Profile Particle Size Screening

Posted Nov 22 2009 10:00pm

Raleigh, NC-based LipoScience changing the way cholesterol is measured

It seems just about everyone these days is aware of cholesterol because of the relentless (and might I add nauseating) daily barrage of advertisements from the pharmaceutical companies pushing these cholesterol-lowering statin drugs like Lipitor, Crestor, and the like. The television commercials always show examples of patients who say their doctor told them their “high” cholesterol required that they start taking this little daily pill to “go lower” with their numbers. But why does everybody so easily buy into this very simplistic, conventional way of looking at cholesterol as the primary measuring stick for heart health risk?

Oh, come on Jimmy! Everyone already “knows” that you need to keep your total cholesterol below 200 and your LDL “bad” cholesterol under 100 in order to be considered “healthy” and safe from cardiovascular problems. In fact, it’s posted right there on the National Institutes of Health web site, so it’s got to be true, right? Oh really? Wellllll, maybe not.

But, but, but…what about where it says on the NIH web site about how high blood cholesterol comes from the “saturated fat and cholesterol in the food you eat (to) make your blood cholesterol level go up” and that “reducing the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in your diet helps lower your blood cholesterol level?” How does this line up with your oft-repeated message of a high-fat livin’ la vida low-carb way of eating? Ahhhh, how can they get it so wrong on an issue this vital to the health of Americans?

The reason I’m bringing up this issue is because my wife Christine and I had the opportunity to visit a place located up the road from us in Raleigh, North Carolina called LipoScience. They are the first company to commercialize a laboratory test using state-of-the-art NMR spectroscopy systems as a detection method to determine blood cholesterol particle size and number called the NMR LipoProfile® test. I wrote extensively about this unique cholesterol test in the Introduction and Lesson #2 of my brand new book 21 Life Lessons From Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb: How The Healthy Low-Carb Lifestyle Changed Everything I Thought I Knew. This information is too vital for people to miss!

Simply looking at the total cholesterol and even the LDL and HDL as subsets of your lipid profile is shortsighted in light of what we know about the particle number of LDL, known as LDL-P. There is debate even within the LipoScience lab over whether it is the number or the size of the LDL particles that matters the most. But one thing’s for sure: the NMR LipoProfile test is a far superior way to measure your true heart health.

So why does particle size matter so much? Well, it’s elementary my dear Watson. The smaller, more dense the LDL particles are, the easier it is for them to slip behind the arterial wall, build up plaque, and eventually become inflamed to the point that serious problems develop. That’s why you want more of the large, fluffy kind of LDL particles because they cannot penetrate the arterial wall. Wanna know how to prevent your LDL from becoming predominantly the small, dense and dangerous kind and transform them into the large, fluffy and protective ones instead? Yep, you got it — eat a high-fat, low-carb diet.

When you choose a nutritional approach that puts the emphasis on consuming high levels of fat as a percentage of total caloric intake, moderate amounts of protein, and very few carbohydrates, then three things almost assuredly always happen:

1. Your HDL “good” cholesterol will rise above 50.
2. Your triglycerides will dip below 100.
3. Your LDL particle size will be mostly the large, fluffy kind.

These three indicators are a tell-tale sign if someone is eating low-carb correctly or not. If you are consuming too many carbohydrates, then your triglycerides will bear that out by remaining above 100. If you aren’t eating enough fat, then your HDL will dip below 50. And if both of these numbers are significantly off course, then you better believe your LDL particle size will be leaning in the direction of more of the small, dense ones. EEEEK!

It’s hard to believe that a machine like the one shown above are constantly running thousands upon thousands of blood samples every single week to determine the particle size and number for patients all across America at the LipoScience facility. As I toured this massive building full of people in white coats everywhere, I stood in awe of a company that truly understands that there is a better way to test and measure cholesterol than the way we are currently doing it. Unfortunately, they are still stuck on the conventional wisdom as it relates to how to best treat cholesterol issues. But with time and proper research perhaps they will become convinced of the efficacy of livin’ la vida low-carb to work hand-in-hand with their test.

While we were there, the LipoScience people were very generous to offer a free NMR LipoProfile screening for both Christine and me. I already hate needles and Christine is used to them growing up as a preemie as well as that IVF cycle we went through a couple of years ago. To make matters worse, my vein rolled so they had to jab me twice. But I wanted to have my blood tested so bad I sucked up the pain. This was just too important NOT to have done.

So, what were the results? Here were my numbers:

Total Cholesterol 351
LDL-C 278
HDL-C 57
Triglycerides 79
LDL Particle Number 2130
Small LDL-P 535
LDL Part. Size 22.0
Large HDL-P 10.9
Large VLDL-P 0.4

Most physicians would look at this with big bug eyes and write a prescription for a statin drug so fast you wouldn’t be able to blink before he handed it to you! But despite my “high” total cholesterol of 351 and LDL of 278, take a look at my HDL and triglycerides. The numbers were 57 and 79 respectively and basically a ratio of 1:1. Low-carb diet research Dr. Jeff Volek from the University of Connecticut says it’s this triglyceride/HDL ratio that is more important than total and LDL cholesterol ever will be.

Although my particle number of 2130 is considered “very high” for this test, the particle size of the small LDL-P was just 535 of that — considered “low” according to the test. Additionally, the LDL Particle Size of 22.0 nm is indicative of the “large” fluffy kind and the Large HDL-P and Large VLDL-P numbers I had put me in the “low risk” category. In other words, 1595 of my LDL particles were this protective kind and the graph was off the charts. Meanwhile, the small LDL-P number was less than half of the “goal” that is considered desirable. The numbers were well within the safe range. WOO HOO!

How about Christine’s numbers? Although she’s not been as strict about low-carb living as I have over the past six years, I give her credit for stepping up her eating habits in recent months and was anxious to see what improvements she has made as a result of livin’ la vida low-carb. Here’s her results:

Total Cholesterol 183
LDL-C 113
HDL-C 47
Triglycerides 113
LDL Particle Number 1262
Small LDL-P 722
LDL Part. Size 21.2
Large HDL-P 9.5
Large VLDL-P 0.6

Despite the fact that her HDL and triglycerides are just outside that over 50 and under 100 benchmark, her total cholesterol and LDL look fantastic and I’m sure her doctor would be pleased with these numbers. Her small LDL-P was higher than mine at 722 despite the fact her total LDL particles were about half of mine at 1262. This put her in the “moderate” range for the small, dense LDL. But her LDL is predominantly the large, fluffy kind as well and she’s doing a brilliant job of keeping the trend moving in the right direction.

If you’d like to learn more about why “Most cholesterol tests by your doctor are virtually meaningless,” then be sure to pick up a copy of my new book and read Lesson #2! And tell your doctor you don’t want to settle for the Berkeley Heart Lab test anymore and instead you want an NMR LipoProfile test. They can order it directly from LabCorp for you and it will give you all the information you’ll ever want or need about your lipid health. Got questions about your test results? Although I’m not a doctor or medical professional, I’d be happy to help you with interpreting the results once you get them back. E-mail me anytime at


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