As I often say, I believe looking at LDL cholesterol levels alone is like reading the last chapter in a long book… you need to know all the elements in the story before that point to get an idea of how it ended up there.
Certainly I’ve been focused on the energy model and how being “powered by fat” is very relevant to resulting lipid levels. But I’m also aware of many other factors that impact cholesterol levels as well:
Yet one of the most common suggestions in lowering cholesterol (both total and LDL) is “replace saturated fat with mono and polyunsaturated fat”. This advice appears to have lots of evidence behind it. I’ve both read many studies and heard many stories that back up this advice, although individual results can vary.
In particular, I regularly hear one should “replace butter with extra virgin olive oil” where they can. Given the enormous popularity of both these sources of fat, I decided to set up an experiment to test each in isolation — and it’s going to be a bit ambitious.
This experiment will be a double crossover for four weeks, meaning I will be alternating between two interventions each twice, resulting in a total of four one-week phases. I will attempt to keep all other variables as equivalent as possible throughout: eating times, exercise times/duration, and sleep schedule.
For the extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) I’ll be using Kirkland and for the butter, Kerrygold. Both will be combined with warm water by emulsion blender and then mixed with a meal replacement shake powder (Ketochow). In addition to the shakes
- June 30-July 6 – EVOO
- July 7-13 – Butter
- July 14-July 20 – EVOO
- July 21-27 – Butter
Water and electrolyte beverages will be consumed ad libitum
Exercise will consist of two to three miles a day of walking with moderate, ad libitum upper body exercise (such as pushups).
Sleep will be ad libitum between 12am and 8am.
Blood tests for mornings of June 30, and July 7, 14, 21, and 28:
- Apolipoprotein A-1
- Apolipoprotein B
- C-Reactive Protein
- Complete Blood Count (CBC)
- Comprehensive Metabolic Panel (CMP)
- Fatty Acids, Free (NEFA)
- Ferritin, Serum
- Glucagon, Plasma
- Hemoglobin A1c
- Insulin and C-Peptide
- Lipid Panel
- Lp-PLA2 Activity
- Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR)
- Oxidized Low-density Lipoprotein (OxLDL)
- Reverse T3
- Testosterone, Serum
- Thyroid Panel
- Uric Acid, Serum
- Vitamin B12 and Folate
- Vitamin D, 25-Hydroxy
Endpoints of Interest
There are two categories of interest to me for this experiment: lipid levels and inflammation markers. But more specifically, I’m interested in what will happen with LDL-C/LDL-P/ApoB vs Oxidized LDL (oxLDL).
- I posit the EVOO interventions will have lower relative total and LDL cholesterol levels
- I posit the EVOO interventions will have a greater proportion of oxidized LDL relative to total LDL particle count (oxLDL/LDL-P)
As mentioned above, there are many factors that can influence cholesterol levels, particularly LDL. There is one effect that is rarely discussed in the literature but is of particular interest to me — how much we see particular types of dietary fat result in higher or lower oxidation per LDL particle.
In other words, are we seeing lower levels of LDL cholesterol because LDL particles are getting oxidized and cleared by scavenger receptors at a higher rate? There are many limitations to the experiment in how well it can provide evidence to this answer, but it might open the door.
Regardless, I suspect we’ll have lots of other data from the many other blood markers I’m capturing that may prove quite useful.