A study has suggested that the conventional wisdom regarding ‘good’ cholesterol may be incorrect after all.
The research in question was conducted at Cambridge University, and has been published in the Science journal.
Scientists found that good cholesterol is not always beneficial to the individual, which challenges orthodox opinion on the subject.
Eating olive oil, fish and nuts raises levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) – which is more commonly known as good cholesterol.
However, repeated trials that raise HDL with drugs have flopped, leading doctors to question underlying assumptions about them.
The trials involved in the research revealed that a specific gene mutation has a influence over the cholesterol conundrum.
People with a mutation in a gene called SCARB1, which affects one-in-1,700 people, had very high levels of good cholesterol.
Yet these individuals also suffered from an 80% inflated risk of heart disease; a particularly alarming number as it is approximately comparable to regular smoking.
Prof Adam Butterworth, one of the researchers from the University of Cambridge, declared that the research is particularly significant, and that it would challenge assumptions regarding the way that good cholesterol works in human body.
“This is significant because we had always believed that good cholesterol is associated with a lower risk of heart disease. This is one of the first studies to show that some people that have high levels of ‘good’ cholesterol actually have a higher risk of heart disease so it challenges our conventional wisdom about whether ‘good’ cholesterol is protecting people from heart disease or not.”
Previous research has focused on producing pharmaceutical products that raise HDL, in the hope that this will have a significant impact on heart health.
But the aforementioned Butterworth suggested that drugs which are aimed at simply raising the level of HCL is the human body may ultimately be futile.
While the researchers have questioned the importance of boosting levels of HDL cholesterol, they insist it still remains a valuable tool for predicting the risk of a heart attack.
But fellow researcher Dr Daniel Rader, from the University of Pennsylvania, believes that conventional wisdom on the subject may turn 180 degrees eventually.
“Eventually we may want to perform genetic testing in persons with high HDL to make sure they don’t have mutations, like this one, that raise HDL but don’t protect against, or may even increase, risk for heart disease.”
Coronary heart disease is the single most common cause of death before 65 accounting for 16% male and 10% female deaths.
Cardiovascular disease is responsible for 38% of male and 37% female deaths before the age of 75.