Another Sacred Cow Falls By The Wayside: HDL Cholesterol Not All It’s Cracked Up To Be

It turns out the cholesterol narrative we’ve been telling ourselves is not quite as clear as we’d hoped. New research reveals that high levels of HDL cholesterol (what we’ve previously called “The Good Cholesterol”) imparts NO protection against heart disease. From the New York Times’ coverage of the news:

People who inherit genes that give them naturally higher HDL levels throughout life have no less heart disease than those who inherit genes that give them slightly lower levels. If HDL were protective, those with genes causing higher levels should have had less heart disease.


This is interesting news indeed, but it doesn’t mean we understand what’s going on just yet. Researchers postulate that higher HDL levels may be a byproduct of some other process going on in the body that signifies improved cardiovascular health. Also, LDL cholesterol, also known as “The Bad Cholesterol”, still increases risk for heart disease. Of course, if you’ve been paying attention, you know that that narrative isn’t clear either, as your risk is correlated to the types and quantities of low density lipoprotein produced in your body. In other words, not all LDL is bad.


Resources:

  • New York Times – Doubt Cast on the ‘Good’ in ‘Good Cholesterol’
  • The Lancet – Plasma HDL cholesterol and risk of myocardial infarction: a mendelian randomisation study
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