Illustrating what Dr. Pauling has maintained for years, new research has shown that people with high levels of Lipoprotein(a) or Lp(a), have a much higher risk of heart disease.

Analyzing the findings from 27 studies, British researchers found that those patients with high levels of Lp(a) had a 70% higher risk of developing heart disease over a period of 10 years.

Lp(a) is a substance that consists of an LDL “bad cholesterol” part plus a protein (apoprotein a), whose exact function is currently unknown.

Despite previous conflicting results concerning the importance of Lp(a), researchers maintain that this study shows that Lp(a) has a “clear association” with heart disease risk.

Researchers also maintain that a person’s Lp(a) is largely governed by genetics. For example, people of African decent tend to have higher levels than Caucasians.

Currently, there are no available drugs to lower Lp(a), although researchers state that some research suggests estrogen therapy may help.

Circulation September 5, 2000:102.


There have been published studies showing dietary reductions in Lp(a). Trans fatty acids are probably the biggest culprits, but soy should be avoided as well.

One study showed significant increases in Lp(a) levels of subjects consuming diets high in trans fats, but not in those consuming high levels of saturated fats (J Lipid Res 1992 Oct;33(10):1493-501). As a matter of fact, Dr. Mary Enig maintains that saturated fats actually LOWER Lp(a) levels.

In another study, researchers found a whopping 24% reduction in Lp(a) levels with a diet high in vegetables, fruits, and nuts (Metabolism 1997 May;46:530-7).

Another study showed that fish consumption reduces Lp(a) levels, most likely due to the omega-s fatty acids (Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol 1999 May;19:1250-6).

In yet another study, in patients consuming large quantities of walnuts, Lp(a) levels were found to decrease an average of over 6%, as well as an almost equal decrease in LDL cholesterol levels (Ann Intern Med 2000 Apr 4;132(7):538-46).

The late Linus Pauling and fellow researcher Mathias Rath hypothesized that Lp(a) levels may be increased in some cases due to a vitamin C deficiency. They note that Lp(a) is found mostly in the blood of primates and the guinea pig, which have lost the ability to synthesize ascorbate (vitamin C), but only rarely in the blood of other animals which still produce their own supply.

They also noted that the 2 substances possess some similar properties, such as in the acceleration of wound healing and other cell-repair mechanisms, the strengthening of the extracellular matrix (e.g., in blood vessels), and the prevention of lipid peroxidation. Therefore, they suggested that the body intentionally sythecizes Lp(a) when it is lacking an adequate vitamin C supply.

What should your Lp(a) levels be? According to Dr. Stephen Byrnes, ND, “Acceptable levels per dl of blood would be <10 mg. 11-24 mg/dl are borderline high; >25 mg/dl are very high. If your Lp (a) levels are over 10, you need to take action at once.”