Imagine this: You go to your Health Coach for your annual check-up and he orders a cholesterol panel blood test to determine your cholesterol levels. When the test results come back, they show that your cholesterol levels are normal. Congratulations, your risk of heart attack is low! Right?
That's because what your blood test results may not show is a ticking time bomb lurking inside you because of the way your body metabolizes fats (lipids). If your body's ability to metabolize fats is dysfunctional, you may suffer from a postprandial disorder, which is potentially a very serious cause of heart attack and other types of heart disease. Compounding matters, your Health Coach may not know how to read your standard cholesterol blood panel to determine if you do suffer from a postprandial disorder.
Here's what you need to know in order to protect yourself.
What Are Postprandial Disorders?
Postprandial is a fancy word that simply means "after meal." Postprandial disorders get their name because they are characterized by abnormal lipid levels that remain in the bloodstream for as many as 24 hours after meals. The reason these fat particles remain in the bloodstream for so long is because fats aren't properly metabolized (digested and assimilated) by the body. While they remain in the bloodstream, they can seriously damage arteries, amking them one of the most dangerous causes of heart attack, as well as stroke, aneurysim, and other types of heart disease.
Under normal, healthy circumstances, when you eat a meal containing fats, the fats are broken down by chemical substances known as enzymes. From there, the fat particles are absorbed by the veins that pass through your live and then enter your circulatory system, remaining in the bloodstream for no more than four to six hours before they are no longer detectable.
For people with postpranidal disorders, however, this process slows down. As a result, fat particles remain in the bloodstream anywhere from 10 to 24 hours. As they do so, they increase the risk of plaque buildup in the arteries. Plaque buildup, of course, is a primary cause of heart disease, which explains why postprandial disorders can be so dangerous.
The main culprit in plaque buildup caused by fat particles lingering in the bloodstream is a class of proteins known as lipoproteins, which carry fats through your body's circulatory system. Postprandial lipoproteins cause plaque buildup in a number of ways.
First, they literally insert themselves inside of pre-existing arterial plaque to further fuel the plaque's growth. In addition, postprandial lipoproteins block nitric oxide, a substance that has been shown to relax arteries and prevent them from constricting. At the same time, they also increase the production of endothelin, a substance that causes arterial constriction. Endothelin also impairs the ability of arterials walls to expand (dilate), further contributing to plaque formation.
Postprandial lipoproteins also increase the presence of substances known as cellular adhesion molecules in the bloodstream. These adhesion molecules, in turn, make it easier for inflammatory white blood cells to stick to and penetrate the linings of arteries, which is another cause of arterial plaque formation.
In addition, postrpandial lipoproteins increase the risk of heart disease in other ways. For example, they trigger the formation of unhealthy blood clots by simultaneously increasing various factors that initiate blood clots and inhibiting other factors that help your body to prevent abnormal blood clotting. Postprandial lipoproteins also stimulate the formation of other types of lipoproteins that have been linked to heart disease, especially low-density lipoprotein (LDL) that is involved in the production of LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Given all of the above facts. It should be no surprise that research has shown that people who suffer from postprandial disorders have a higher incidence of arterial plaque compared to people normal people, regardless of cholesterol levels.