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LDL

Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) carry cholesterol from the liver to other parts of the body. Because higher levels of LDL cholesterol (LDL-C) tend to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), LDL-C is often called the “bad cholesterol” — but the reality is more complex.

Our evidence-based analysis on ldl features 89 unique references to scientific papers.

Research analysis led by and reviewed by the Examine team.
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Summary of LDL

Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) are proteins that carry hydrophobic molecules through extracellular fluid. More precisely, they carry cholesterol from the liver to other parts of the body, via the bloodstream.

The greater the number of LDL particles (LDL-P) in the blood, the more likely some will pass into artery walls, become oxidized, and kickstart plaque formation,[1] leading to atherosclerosis. Therefore, to predict cardiovascular disease (CVD), LDL-P matters more than LDL cholesterol (LDL-C),[2][3] which is simply a measure of the amount of the cholesterol carried by LDL particles.

If two people have the same LDL-C but one has cholesterol-rich LDL (large, “fluffy” particles) and the other cholesterol-poor LDL (smaller, denser particles), the second will have a greater LDL-P (more LDL particles total) and be at greater risk of heart disease.

While a WHO meta-analysis of saturated fat didn’t cover LDL-P,[4] it did report the levels of apolipoprotein B (apoB), the protein component of LDL. Since each LDL particle has one molecule of apoB, apoB concentrations provide a good estimate of LDL-P concentrations and are a strong predictor of heart disease risk.[5][6]

To predict heart disease, LDL-P (the number of LDL particles) matters more than LDL-C (the amount of cholesterol those particles carry). There is one molecule of apolipoprotein B (apoB) in each LDL particle, so apoB is a good estimate of LDL-P.

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Human Effect Matrix

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The Human Effect Matrix looks at human studies to tell you what supplements affect LDL.

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Grade Level of Evidence
Robust research conducted with repeated double-blind clinical trials
Multiple studies where at least two are double-blind and placebo controlled
Single double-blind study or multiple cohort studies
Uncontrolled or observational studies only
Level of Evidence
? The amount of high quality evidence. The more evidence, the more we can trust the results.
Supplement Magnitude of effect
? The direction and size of the supplement's impact on each outcome. Some supplements can have an increasing effect, others have a decreasing effect, and others have no effect.
Consistency of research results
? Scientific research does not always agree. HIGH or VERY HIGH means that most of the scientific research agrees.
Notes
grade-a Notable Very High See all 14 studies
There appears to be a reliable and significant reduction in circulating LDL cholesterol in hypercholesterolemic persons with garlic supplementation, and the magnitude of this change tends to be in the range of 10-20% (more potency in those with worse profiles at baseline)
grade-a Minor Very High See all 15 studies
Cocoa products appear to be able to reduce LDL cholesterol due to their flavonoid component, with the reduction in LDL-C being mild.
grade-a
Minor
- See all 30 studies
A decrease has been noted in persons without high cholesterol in the first place, and the decreasing effect of statins appears to be augmented with fish oil. However, in persons at higher risk for cardiovascular disease due to high triglycerides and cholesterol (who more frequently use fish oil as therapy) it is possible LDL-C may actually be increased. The magnitude tends to be in the 5-10% range.

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Frequently Asked Questions and Articles on LDL

Is saturated fat bad for your health?
Saturated fat is not inherently harmful. Compared to carbs and unsaturated fat, it has been linked to an increase in some risk factors for heart disease, but not directly to heart disease itself. As usual, by focusing on a nutrient in isolation, we risk missing the bigger picture: what matters most is your overall diet and lifestyle.
Will eating eggs increase my cholesterol?
Eggs increasing cholesterol depends on your genetics. They don't seem to increase the risk of heart disease unless you have a poor diet.

Things to Note

Also Known As

LDL-cholesterol, LDL-C, LDL-P

Click here to see all 89 references.