Avoiding the 'Ultra bad' Cholesterol
Researchers have discovered a form of cholesterol seems to be 'ultra-bad', leading to increased risk of heart complications. This discovery may lead to new treatments in preventing heart disease, especially in people with type 2 diabetes and seniors.
Recently, much has been learned about the different kinds of cholesterol. Cholesterol does not dissolve into the bloodstream. It is transported to and from the cells by carriers called lipoproteins. Low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, is what is called "bad" cholesterol. High-density lipoprotein, or HDL, is known as "good" cholesterol. These, along with triglycerides and Lpcholesterol, comprise your total cholesterol count, as shown in a blood test.
HDL Cholesterol (the Good)
Nearly a quarter to a third of blood cholesterol is carried by high-density lipoprotein (HDL). HDL is called "good" cholesterol, due to the fact that higher levels of HDL appear to protect against heart attacks. Low levels of HDL can increase the risk of heart disease. Medical experts believe that HDL carries cholesterol away from the arteries and returns it to the liver, where it's passed from the body. Studies show that HDL removes excess cholesterol from arterial plaque and slowing its buildup.
LDL Cholesterol (the Bad)
When too much LDL (bad) cholesterol is in the bloodstream, it can accumulate in the inner walls of the arteries that supply blood to the heart and brain. Together with other substances, it may form plaque, hard deposits that can constrict arteries and make them less flexible. This condition is known as atherosclerosis. If a clot forms in the bloodstream, it may be blocked in a narrowed artery, resulting in a heart attack or stroke.
In the study, which was funded by the British Heart Foundation, University of Warwick, the scientists found that 'ultra bad' cholesterol, called MGmin-low-density lipoprotein, has sugary molecules that are smaller and denser than those of normal LDL.
This makes it more likely to adhere to artery walls. Once attached to artery walls, LDL helps form dangerous 'fatty' plaques'. As the deposits grow, they narrow arteries and reduce blood flow, which can lead to coronary heart disease. Eventually they can rupture, triggering a blood clot that causes a heart attack or stroke.
The discovery was made by creating human MGmin-LDL in the laboratory, then studying its interactions and characteristics with other important molecules in the body. MGmin- LDL differs from other LDL cholesterol as the result of a process called glycation. Glycation occurs when a molecule binds with fructose or glucose.
Their findings may explain why metformin, which is a drug that is widely prescribed for type 2 diabetes, seems to lead to reduced heart disease risk. Metformin is known to lower blood sugar levels, and this new research shows it may reduce the risk of CHD by blocking the transformation of normal LDL to the more 'sticky' MGmin-LDL. They added extra sugar groups to LDL to achieve the transformation into a stickier form of cholesterol. Dr Shannon Amoils, Research Advisor at the BHF, said: "We've known for a long time that people with diabetes are at greater risk of heart attack and stroke. There is still more work to be done to untangle why this is the case, but this study is an important step in the right direction."
The researchers say their next task is to come up with treatments that effectively tackle the impact of this 'ultra-bad' cholesterol on people's arteries.
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