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Good Cholesterols Aren't All 'Healthy,' New Study Finds

Good Cholesterols Aren't All 'Healthy,' New Study Finds

Tuesday, 2 March, 2021 - 07:15
A 20mg dose of Zocor, the Merck & Co. Inc cholesterol fighting drug, is shown in a pharmacy in Westfield, New Jersey, November 28, 2005. REUTERS/Jeff Zelevansky.

A recent Spanish study has raised some questions on the link between high-density lipoprotein cholesterol or "good" cholesterol and lower risks of cardiovascular disease, saying it's doubtful.

HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol has a reputation for decreasing heart disease risk. Researchers say these particles help transport cholesterol deposits in the arteries down to the liver to be eliminated. This is much different than LDL (low-density lipoprotein), or "bad" cholesterol. LDL causes cholesterol to build up in the arteries, increasing the risks for disease, heart attack, and stroke.

While some drugs which lower levels of bad cholesterol do help reduce heart disease risk, there is less evidence that drugs that increase good cholesterol have the same effect. The research team in this study examined this paradox, which calls into question whether good cholesterol really is "good" at all.

The study conducted by the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute (IMIM) found that not all good cholesterols are helpful when it comes to cardiovascular disease. The findings were published in the journal Metabolism.

During the study, researchers analyzed genetic properties which determine the size of good cholesterol particles. They then observed the relationship these various particles have with increasing or decreasing heart attack risk. The results show that larger HDL cholesterol particles directly impact a person's chances of having a heart attack. Genetic characteristics which produce smaller particles, on the other hand, lower heart attack risk.

There is a positive causal relationship between the size of HDL cholesterol particles and the risk of heart attack, so although we have to increase the levels of good cholesterol in the blood, they must always be small particles, explains the study's principal investigator Dr. Robert Elosua in a report published on the university's website.

"This study highlights new and potential therapeutic targets in the field of cardiovascular diseases, including several genes related to the qualitative aspects of HDL particles, which may contribute to cardiovascular prevention," he adds.

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