Good Cholesterol Not as Good as Once Thought

Good Cholesterol Not as Good as Once Thought

The majority of individuals know that “bad” cholesterol should be avoided as much as possible but a new research study has shown that even what is considered “good” cholesterol may not be as harmless as what was once thought. Scientists in the United States had found that high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, what is considered good, can change, lose its protective qualities and start encouraging inflaming and clogging of arteries. The researchers, who were located at the Cleveland Clinic, stated that the benefits of good cholesterol have been reported at length but that every clinical trial which used drugs that were made to raise levels of good cholesterol has not shown that it has improved heart health.

Cholesterol is a fatty substance inside the human body, which is made by the liver and it is used to create the walls of cells, make a protective covering around nerves and also to make other chemicals, such as hormones. Cholesterol moves around the body by merging with protein to form a shielding coat that goes around tiny fat balls absorbed from a person’s diet. These are called lipoproteins. The coating holds the fat together so human bodies do not have slicks of fat moving around in the bloodstream.

There are two kinds of lipoproteins measured, and they are low density lipoprotein (LDL), which is known as bad cholesterol, and there is high density lipoprotein or HDL, which was mentioned above. LDL creates large batches of fat and protein which roll along the arteries and can only be cleared from the body by the liver. While these are moving around the body, the fat can break off and go into some of the artery walls. This is where they become embedded and the build-up can make the artery walls to become narrower so blood is unable to go through. This causes blood clots which can then lead to heart attacks or strokes.

HDL is much tinier in size and goes about picking up fat deposits from artery wall as it goes around the human body. Good cholesterol has been thought to be improved by eating garlic, oily fish, avocado, beans, oats, olive oil, lentils and onions. A person finds bad cholesterol in a number of foods such as butter, cheese, eggs, processed meats and fast food.

The researchers state they have found that a protein which is plentiful in good cholesterol is existent in artery walls which are diseased. Because of this, the team, led by Dr. Stanley Hazen, of the Cleveland Clinic, wanted to see if good cholesterol really was as good as was believed. Good cholesterol has a certain protein called apolipoprotein A1. This protein is what gives good cholesterol the protective qualities over the heart it is supposed to have. However, the doctor and his group found that inside the artery wall, there was a large section of apoA1 which had become corroded and was no longer helping aid to cardiovascular health. It was instead contributing to the progress of coronary artery disease.

The team came up with a method that identified non-working good cholesterol and tested the blood of approximately 630 heart patients. They discovered the patients that had the increased blood levels of dysfunctional good cholesterol had a much better chance of coming down with heart disease. They do not fully understand why or how the good cholesterol is changing over to the bad kind.

Dr. Hazen stated that by identifying the particular structure of apoA1 and what the process is that makes it become a promoter of disease instead of a disease preventer is the very first step in producing new treatments and tests for cardiovascular disease. He added that now they know what the dysfunctional protein is and looks like, they are able to create a clinical test that can measure what its levels are in the bloodstream. This can be will be a valued tool for both evaluating the cardiovascular disease risk that is in patients and for supervisory development of HDL directed therapies that can prevent disease. Now that the news is out, the majority of individuals can learn that even what is considered “good” cholesterol may not be as harmless as what was once thought.

By Kimberly Ruble


PBS News

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