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New study questions benefits of HDL cholesterol
05.18.2012Doctors commonly advise patients who are at risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke to get their HDL cholesterol levels up. In fact, this is a common focus of healthcare and wellness programs. However, new evidence suggests that higher HDL cholesterol levels may not be as beneficial as once thought.
Previous studies have suggested that HDL, or "good," cholesterol is beneficial because it sweeps the arteries of plaque buildups and carries excess fat to the liver for processing. It was thought that this action helps to lower heart attack and stroke risk.
However, the current investigation suggests that this process may not be as beneficial as once thought. For the study, researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital analyzed the health records and DNA samples of a group of 170,000 participants. The genetic material was analyzed for variations that have been linked to higher HDL cholesterol levels.
The results showed that individuals who had genetic variants linked to higher HDL levels faced similar heart attack and stroke risks as those who lacked the supposed beneficial mutations.
"It's been assumed that if a patient, or group of patients, did something to cause their HDL levels to go up, then you can safely assume that their risk of heart attack will go down," said senior author Sekar Kathiresan, who led the investigation. "This work fundamentally questions that."
The team added that the findings would help steer the development of new medications. Currently, there are no effective drugs available to boost HDL levels. The results suggest that it may not be a productive use of time and resources for other scientists to work to develop good cholesterol-boosting medications.
Categories: Health and Wellness
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