Low "Good" Cholesterol Bad in Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes with low HDL cholesterol may boost risk of microvascular disease

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) If you have diabetes, you could end up having problems in many parts of the body, including the heart, kidneys or eyes. If you want to protect yourself against these problems, you may need to keep a closer eye on your cholesterol.

Type 2 diabetes patients with lower levels of HDL cholesterol had an increased risk of microvascular disease, or small vessel disease - a condition in which small blood vessels become narrowed.

"Watch your cholesterol if you have diabetes."

HDL cholesterol is also known as the "good" cholesterol. Low levels of HDL cholesterol have been linked to an increased risk of atherosclerosis (narrowing of blood vessels).

In their recent study, Sophia Zoungas, PhD, of the University of Sydney, and colleagues found that patients with the lowest levels of HDL cholesterol had a 17 percent higher risk of microvascular disease, compared to those with the highest levels of HDL cholesterol.

Patients with the lowest HDL cholesterol levels had a 19 percent higher risk of kidney problems but no increased risk of eye problems, compared to those with the highest levels.

"In patients with type 2 diabetes, HDL cholesterol level is an independent risk factor for the development of microvascular disease affecting the kidney but not the retina," the authors concluded.

In other words, low levels of HDL cholesterol may increase the risk of narrowed blood vessels, leading to kidney problems. However, the narrowing of blood vessels did not seem to affect the eyes.

For their research, Dr. Zoungas and colleagues studied 11,140 people with type 2 diabetes and at least one risk factor for blood vessel problems.

Over the course of the study, 32 percent of the patients developed a new or worsening case of microvascular disease. A total of 28 percent had a kidney problem and 6 percent had an eye complication.

The study was published August 13 in Diabetes Care, a journal of the American Diabetes Association.

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Review Date: 
August 19, 2012
Last Updated:
August 22, 2012