There were about 50 different bio markers on my blood test. I won’t go through them all. The two areas that I’m most interested in are my blood lipids (cholesterol etc) and Vitamin D. (I was also interested in my body fat %, but that wasn’t measured in the blood test. The body fat % results came from a BodPod in the University of Westminster. Over the course of the test both my weight (80kg) and my body fat % (17.3%) fell. This was expected and isn’t particularly interesting.)
Variable Before After Recommended
Cholesterol 6.3 7.9 <5.0 mmol/dl
LDL 3.87 5.28 <3.0 mmol/l
HDL 2.13 2.42 0.9-1.4 mmol/l
Triglycerides 0.82 0.49 <2.3 mmol/l
Vitamin D (D2+D3) 51 156 50-200 nmol/l
The conventional wisdom is that this should be as low as possible. Your doctor will want it below 5.0 mmol/l (200mg/dl). Optimal levels depend on sex and age. It is higher for women and increases with age (and that’s OK). For someone under 40, like myself, anywhere up to 7.8 mmol/l is manageable depending on triglyceride levels (see below). My cholesterol was high before and higher after. Overall 7.9 mmol/l is probably too high, since more cholesterol usually means more LDL-P, but it’s not as dangerous as the conventional wisdom would have you believe.
The conventional wisdom will tell you that this is “bad cholesterol” and that you want this as low as possible. The NHS says less than 3 mmol/l (115mg/dl). This is a half-truth. Your test will say “LDL”, but what it is actually measuring is LDL-C. LDL-C is an estimate of the amount of cholesterol in each LDL particle. What we really want to be as low as possible is LDL-P: the number of LDL particles carrying the cholesterol. All things being equal, we would want LDL-C to be higher, since this means that for a given level of cholesterol there is more cholesterol in each particle and therefore fewer LDL particles are required to transport the cholesterol. My LDL-C went from high to higher. This is not surprising given that my total cholesterol was so high. Given that the amount of cholesterol in each particle increased, it is possible that the total number of LDL-P was constant over the test period. Triglyceride levels will shed more light on that.
The “good cholesterol” particle transports cholesterol from your cells to be recycled. All things being equal, higher HDL is better. The NHS recommends levels above 1 mmol/l (40mg/dl). On this I would agree with the status quo. The only difference is that I think optimal levels are higher, at around 1.5 mmol/l (60mg/dl). Again, my HDL increased over the test period which mostly reflects the increase in total cholesterol.
Like LDL-C, this is an estimate of the amount of triglycerides in each LDL particle. Triglycerides are strongly associated with heart disease, much more so that LDL-C, and we want this variable as low as possible. The NHS says under 1.7mmol/l (150mg/dl). I’m aiming for about half of that, at 0.8 mmol/l (70mg/dl). Despite being a fat molecule, high triglycerides are a result of high carb diets. The body has sufficient glucose so excess glucose is converted to fat for storage. Hence high blood triglyceride levels. My triglycerides ere low to start with and fell further. This suggests that I successfully maintained a low carb diet. Triglycerides and LDL-C are telling the same story: less triglycerides and more cholesterol in each LDL particle and therefore less LDL particles overall. This is what I expected.
If you want a shortcut the most important number to consider is probably the ratio of HDL to triglycerides. This effectively tells us the ratio of good to bad, and is negatively correlated with the number of harmful LDL particles in our bloodstream. The higher the ratio, the lower the LDL-P and vice versa. We want this ratio to be above 1, and the higher the better. My HDL/triglyceride ratio has increased from just over 2.5 to almost 5. I’m pretty happy with that! If you want to know more about cholesterol and it’s role in heart disease I’ve written as series of posts which can be found here.
Vitamin D is one of the few topics that everyone agrees on. It’s responsible for so many key functions in the body and has myriad benefits as I mentioned before. My vitamin D was 51, it’s now 156. The talking heads recommend 100-150. I was initially measured in April in London, which isn’t the sunniest place in the world, and I wasn’t supplementing. I was measured the second time after a few weeks of English Summer, a trip to Ibiza and a few drops of this. I expected that my Vitamin D would probably be on the low side and was keen to increase it. I’m glad to see that some sunshine and a good supplement works.