Carbohydrates and High Cholesterol

by Dennis Volz

in Health & Fitness

Where Does It All Go?

Let’s follow a typical meal through your digestive tract and circulatory system.

When you eat your food, digestion begins immediately as you chew and add salivary digestive enzymes.  This is followed by a host of other enzymes that further breakdown your food in your stomach.  When your food is sufficiently digested to a substance called chyme, its pushed through your pyloric valve from your stomach into your duodenum which is the upper portion of your small intestine.  It’s here that nutrients begin to be absorbed through the wall of your small intestine, into your bloodstream via your portal vein.  This is the major vein that leads to your liver where the contents of your blood gets “evaluated” by your liver.

It’s important to know the end results of your digestive process.  Proteins break down to amino acids, fats break down to various fatty acids, and carbohydrates break down fairly rapidly (compared to proteins and fats) to glucose.  YES… Your loaf of “healthy” whole wheat bread is, in it’s digested form, a loaf of sugar!

On the way to the liver, this nutrient-rich blood takes a pass through your pancreas where resides the Islets of Langerhans.  These are the magic little nodules scattered throughout your pancreas like little islands that produce insulin.  Depending on the content of the nutrients, your pancreas will dispense various amounts of insulin.  Proteins get a very small amount, fats don’t even get a second glance from the Islets, and carbohydrates that have now assumed their basic form of glucose gets not only noticed, but sets off the station RED ALERT mechanism.  The pancreas takes one look at the results of a high-carbohydrate meal and says, “We need to get busy and dispatch this toxic parade of glucose molecules.  YES… your body looks at glucose as a toxic invader that can cause heart attacks, coronary artery disease, blindness, stroke and limb amputation.

(So why would you want to eat foods, high on the Glycemic Index. that cause a superfluous flush of this toxic material into your body? Just sayin’… )

From the pancreas your blood goes to your liver where the work really begins.  The liver “reads” the parade of material but primarily makes it’s “decisions” based on the amount of insulin that has been dispensed by your pancreas.  If there’s a high concentration of insulin, the liver says, “We have to use or store all this ‘energy’ like RIGHT NOW,” and it goes right to work to do just that.

Your Liver – The Gatekeeper

It will allow a small amount of the glucose to pass right through without as much as an I.D. check for use by some of your muscle cells for immediate energy production. Also your brain and other parts of your nervous system depend on glucose (or ketones) as their primary source of energy.  Some of the glucose will be converted to glycogen which is the temporary (and quickly released) storage form of glucose.  Some of this glycogen will be stored in limited amounts right in your liver and some of it will be sent on to your skeletal muscles for storage there for use in case you have to flee from a saber-tooth tiger or defend yourself from a mugger in New York’s south side.  When you’ve consumed a high carbohydrate meal there will be LOTS of glucose left over that can’t be immediately used or fit into the limited storage bins for glycogen.

Your liver will take all of this excess glucose and convert it to cholesterol. It will package that newly formed cholesterol with triglycerides into packages called VLDLs (Very Low Density Lipoproteins).  VLDL is one of the five major groups of lipoproteins (chylomicrons, VLDL, low-density lipoprotein (LDL), intermediate-density lipoprotein, high-density lipoprotein (HDL)) that enable fats and cholesterol to move within the water-based solution of the bloodstream.   Most of these VLDLs will become LDL cholesterol.
(Remember that our original ‘factory setting’ is be a fat burning machine and NOT to use carbohydrates (ie glucose) as our primary energy source)

With the recent research that has reversed the thinking that high serum (in the blood) cholesterol is related to dietary cholesterol, we can now see that excessive blood glucose and it’s necessary insulin response is the real source of high LDL cholesterol numbers.

So What’s The Big Deal?

Why, might you ask, does the liver feel so compelled to pull out all the stops and process this excess glucose into cholesterol? Why not just give it a pass and send it on to the bloodstream.  Well, the answer is simple and one that I’ve already hinted at for you.  Sugar is a more immediate and long-term toxin to your system than fat! Your liver is saving your life by detoxifying your sugar into cholesterol. And while we know that high levels of cholesterol has serious detrimental affects to our coronary system, in terms of your body’s economy of good and evil, it’s the lesser of two evils.

The simple truth is that it’s because of our high carbohydrate, low fat diets and food industry that we’re a nation of fat and high-cholesterol people.  Just like the Eskimos, if you ate a diet of 90% fat and very little carbohydrates, your blood cholesterol would likely go down because there would be little insulin present to alert and power your cholesterol-making machinery.

Contemplate a better eating plan today.  You don’t have to be a believer, but consider trying it for 30 days and see what happens and how you feel.  What do you have to lose?

Here…. I’ve even found a SHOPPING LIST for you so you won’t have to create this all by yourself!


Obviously I’m not a doctor or trained nutritionist. Don’t make any diet changes without consulting your doctor or at least doing some of your own research.  Information for this article was gleaned from:

Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health – William Davis, M.D.

The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet – Robb Wolf

Living Low Carb: Controlled-Carbohydrate Eating for Long-Term Weight Loss – Jonny Bowden PhD CNS


            It's a Good Life! . . . .