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High Levels of “Good” Cholesterol May Be a Bad Thing

That ancient Greek advice, “moderation in all things,” may apply not only to human conduct, but also to the natural world.

A Dutch research study suggests that high levels of “good” HDL cholesterol are not so good – in fact, they may actually increase the risk of a cardiovascular event.

That conclusion comes from the Academic Medical Center in the Netherlands. Scientists there analyzed data from a study involving almost 8,900 patients to assess the benefits of high-dose statin therapy for preventing the recurrence of coronary events.

What the researchers found was that very high levels of HDL cholesterol were tied to increased risk of a major cardiovascular event. After adjusting for other factors, they found each 12-point increase in HDL cholesterol raised that risk by 21 percent.

On the other hand, the study found that apolipoprotein A-I, the major protein component of HDL, continues to be linked to a reduced risk of coronary disease, even at high levels.

In an editorial commenting on the findings, Dr. Jacques Genest of McGill University in Montreal writes, “First, naturally occurring high levels of HDL cholesterol may not protect against heart disease, and second, and herein lies the most important and provocative finding, HDL cholesterol as a therapeutic goal may be fraught with potential dangers.”

Source: Journal of the American College of Cardiology, February, 2008

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