Metabolic syndrome is at an all-time high. Currently, it affects 22%, 34% and 44% of Americans ages 40-49, 50-59 and 60-69, respectively. To "qualify," you either have to know the bouncer at the door to the Syndrome X night club, or have three or more of the following factors:
1. Waist circumference of >102 cm (men) or >88 cm (women)
2. Fasting glucose measurement of >110 mg/dl
3. HDL cholesterol of <40 mg/dl (men) or <50 mg/dl (women)
4. Fasting triglycerides of >150 mg/dl
5. Systolic blood pressure of V 130 mm Hg
While all the experts agree on how to define and diagnose metabolic syndrome, a fierce debate rages on when it comes to treating it: low-fat or low-carbs? Dr. Volek is one of those leading the charge for the low-carb side, and he presented data from six studies done right here in our lab at UCONN that look at the blood lipoprotein responses to VLCKDs.
So what did they find in these studies? Well, essentially the same thing that 19 previous studies — studies people keep wanting to ignore, for some reason — found. Mean fasting triglycerides, postprandial triglycerides and total cholesterol/HDL ratio dropped markedly, while mean HDL was increased.
Interestingly, though, Dr. Volek pointed out that there's a significant amount of variability in individual responses to the VLCKDs. The drops in triglycerides are largely explained by starting levels, but the HDL increases weren't accounted for by weight loss or starting levels. It warrants mention that LDL values increased in four of the six studies. It's important to note, however, that not all LDL is created equal. In fact, a preponderance of small LDL particles (known as Pattern B) is highly correlated with cardiovascular disease. VLCKDs actually shift particle size to the larger variety, making people more "Pattern A." This shift's magnitude is largely explained by initial LDL sizes.