Good Cholesterol Function Trumps Quantity

Anti-inflammatory effects can be lacking even with high HDL cholesterol

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Your body is a mix of both good and bad cholesterol. It's necessary to have both kinds -- good to help prevent heart disease, but also bad, which should be monitored but that your body produces naturally. However, the function of cholesterol may be just as important as the levels.

New research from the University of Zurich in Switzerland suggests that how good HDL cholesterol functions, not just the amount, may be just as important.

Higher levels of HDL cholesterol help prevent heart attacks and strokes, and it has been generally thought that higher levels offer more protection.

HDL levels below 40 mg/dL result in an increased risk of coronary artery disease even if LDL and total cholesterol are within the normal range. Levels above 60 mg/dL are believed to help protect against heart disease. It is primarily increased through steps such as eating healthy, exercising and avoiding tobacco and alcohol.

"Have your cholesterol checked on a regular basis."

Researchers say that has not produced clear-cut reductions of heart disease though, suggesting that the beneficial effects of HDL cholesterol are related to more than abundance.

Research led by Ulf Landmesser at the University of Zurich, found that HDL from patients with coronary artery disease had different effects on cells lining blood vessels than did HDL from healthy individuals. Specifically, the HDL from patients with coronary artery disease was found to lack anti-inflammatory effects on blood vessel–lining cells and thus was unable to stimulate repair of the blood vessel lining.

Researchers suggested that if the protective potential of HDL cholesterol is to be harnessed, its biological functions as well as its abundance must be considered.

The findings are published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

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Review Date: 
June 23, 2011
Last Updated:
June 26, 2011