The exception to low-carb | The Heart Scan Blog

But there’s one group of people who can experience unexpected effects with this diet: The 25% of people with apoprotein E4.

Everybody has two genes for apo E; the most common type is apo E 3/3. Around 1 in 4 people have 1, less commonly 2, genes for apo E4.

I hate apo E4. I hate apo E4 because it means I’ve got to dust off the nonsense I used to tell patients about cutting their fat, cutting their saturated fat. But that’s what apo E4 people have to do. But it doesn’t end there.

Apo E4 people also typically have plenty of small LDL particles triggered by carbohydrates. Put fats and carbohydrates together and you get an explosion of small LDL particles. Remove fats, small LDL goes down a little bit, if at all. Remove carbohydrates, small LDL goes down but total LDL (mostly large) goes up. The large LDL in apo E4 does seem to be atherogenic (plaque-causing), though the data are fairly skimpy.

So apo E4 creates a nutritional rock and a hard place: To extract full advantage from diet, people with apo E4 have to 1) go wheat-free, low-carb, then 2) not overdo fats, especially saturated fat.

It still gives me the creeps to tell an apo E4 person that they’ve got to watch their fats, worse than watching Starsky and Hutch reruns.


Plaque is the stuff of coronary heart disease. It is CONTROLLABLE, it is STOPPABLE, it is REVERSIBLE. But you must be equipped with the right information on diet, nutritional supplements, and hopefully the avoidance of medication. This is the blog that accompanies the Track Your Plaque program. Nothing here should be construed as medical advice, but only topics for further discussion with your doctor. I practice cardiology in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.