Sunday, March 28, 2010

LDL, chylomicrons, HDL, and atherosclerosis: A lazy Sunday theory

  - This post is a joke, admittedly a weird one, which is why it is labeled “humor” and is filed under “Abstract humor”.
  - I apologize for this spoiler. Some people probably like humor posts better if they do not know what they are in advance, but several others may think that reading a post like this is a waste of their time. If you are in the latter category, move on to another post! If not, here it goes …


Today I was spending some time under the sun, in one of the year’s 364 sunny days in Laredo, Texas. The goal was to see if I could obtain a precise count of the number of advanced glycation endproducts (a.k.a. AGEs) that would form as my skin was exposed to the sun’s damaging rays.

Then I read a post by Peter at Hyperlipid, and inspiration consumed me. A new theory was born regarding the interplay of LDL, chylomicrons, HDL, and atherosclerosis. By the way, Peter is a fat genius, by which I mean a genius regarding all fat issues – who happens to be thin.

A key observation forms the main pillar on which this new theory solidly rests:

The endothelium gaps, which let atherogenic particles enter into the forbidden area and do their damage, are around 25 nanometers in diameter. And what is the typical size of LDL particles? You guessed it, 25 nanometers in diameter! And guess what more, quite a few of the chylomicrons, another group of particles that would elicit immediate revulsion in any normal human being, are even smaller than 25 nanometers in diameter; those atherogenic pests!

So here is the theory, in a nutshell. A 500-page book will clearly be needed to discuss it in more detail.

The Devil created LDL particles to kill us all. But LDL particles were not such effective killers, because the Devil, trying to pack as much killer cholesterol into them, ended up making them too big! At 25 nanometers in diameter, on average, they basically had to squeeze their way into the forbidden area.

Since LDL particles were not doing a good enough job, the Devil also created chylomicrons, and those chaotic pests come in all sizes. In fact, it is well known that the word chylomicron has a Greek origin: chylo = killer, micron = particle (Deth & Disis, 1999; full reference at the end of this post).

And, needless to say, LDL particles and chylomicrons are fat particles that make the blood kind of taste and smell like butter, a toxic substance often fed to laboratory rats and known for its powerful carcinogenic properties among all living creatures except descendants of Vlad the Impaler. The latter has long been rumored to have been one of the Devil's best buddies, so no surprise there.

Michael the Archangel, who dislikes the Devil, and usually takes a hands-on approach to dealing with those he dislikes, the Devil in particular, gave us HDL particles. If you have any doubts about Michael’s hands-on approach, check the picture below (from: Wikipedia), which clearly shows what Michael had already done to the Devil. And that was over a relatively minor disagreement.

And don’t think about trying to discredit this theory by asking why HDL particles are so small compared with LDL particles and chylomicrons! This is easy. For the same reason that David was small and Goliath big!

But those nasty particles, the LDLs and chylomicrons, weren't only two big bullies, they were two against one. HDL particles were doing a valiant job at fighting the damage done by the Devil’s two evil particles, but not quite enough to save everybody from atherosclerosis.

Michael cried foul, and threatened to give the Devil another lesson. God, seeing this, said: Michael, no, mankind must be given a choice! If men and women want to gorge on the fatty flesh of the beasts they savagely slaughter, let them sin and face the consequences.

And so it was.

This theory probably needs some adjustments and refinements based on analysis of refereed research, especially solid research supported by drug manufacturers, and consultation with the most interesting man in the world. But I am pretty confident it can, after adjustments and refinements, pass the test of time.

The only nagging problem is the Original Sin. To the best of my knowledge, it was not eating the fatty flesh of beasts. It was eating a very sweet apple …


Deth, R., & Disis, M. (1999, Feb 31). The origins of killer lipids: An evolutionary-theological perspective. The Lipid Review, 123(7), 77-66.