Low-quality HDL cholesterol may not be cardioprotective

High levels of the 'good' cholesterol HDL may not protect against heart disease, say US researchers.

Instead, they warn that HDL cholesterol can vary in quality and that poor-quality HDL could do more harm than good.

The researchers carried out a meta-analysis of almost 100 published studies on the structure of HDL cholesterol.

They found that HDL from patients with chronic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes differed from that in healthy patients, even when blood levels of HDL were comparable.

While high-quality HDL was found to cut inflammation, the poor-quality HDL in chronic disease patients did not. The protective functions of HDL cholesterol are lost because of changes to its protein and lipid components, researchers said.

Lead researcher Dr Angelo Scanu, from the University of Chicago, said: 'For many years, HDL has been viewed as good cholesterol and has generated a false perception that the more HDL in the blood, the better.'

People with high HDL are not always protected against heart problems, he added.

sanjay.tanday@haymarket.com

  • FASEB J 2008; 22: 4,044-54.

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