Excess HDL (Good) Cholesterol Is Bad For You, Study Warns
Kanishtha Thapa | On 28, Sep 2018
Cholesterol is important to us because it is required for the activities of cell membranes, plasma lipoproteins, steroid hormones and bile. Our blood transports cholesterol to areas where it is required. There are two types, Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol and High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) or “good” cholesterol. While we have been warned about LDL’s because of its risk of causing fat to accumulate in our arteries (atherosclerosis), people are encouraged to consume as much “good” cholesterol as possible because it is good for the health. However, that is about to change because recent research has shown that like everything else, too much of “good” cholesterol is detrimental to our health. HDL cholesterol is needed to move LDL from the arteries to the liver where it is metabolized and used by the body, but excessive HLD’s can do the reverse-transport cholesterol to the arteries and cause vascular disease.
The study, which was carried out at the Emory University School of Medicine, included 6,000 participants with an average age of 63 years. The results revealed that those who had HDL levels of 41-60mg/dl had been less likely to have a heart attack, while those who had less than 41mg/dl had a high risk of dying from a heath attack or related cardiovascular disease. Interestingly, those who had HDL cholesterol levels of more than 60mg/dl had a significantly higher risk of dying from a cardiovascular cause. Having “good” cholesterol of more than 6oml/dl increased the chances of experiencing a heart attack or mortality from related cardiovascular disease by close to 50% compared to participants with “good” cholesterol levels of 41-60mg/dl. However, researchers have called for more investigations to clarify the relationship between high HDL cholesterol and cardiovascular risk. The findings of this recent study are in agreement with a larger population study carried out in 2017 which concluded that high “good” cholesterol levels could be linked to an increased risk of all-cause mortality.
What makes the recent study even more significant is that the findings remained unchanged even after researchers controlled for alcohol, diabetes, race, smoking and sex (which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease). Also, the results revealed that the relationship between the risk of developing cardiovascular disease or dying from a heart attack and higher levels of HDL cholesterol is more significant in females than males.
Thus, it may be time to rethink how we view “good” cholesterol. However, that does not mean we should change our diet altogether just yet. An expert opines that if we follow current guidelines that emphasize reduction in the consumption of processed food and animal products, eating more fruits, legumes, vegetables, and whole grains (plant-based foods), and taking monounsaturated fats like avocado, olive oil and nuts our cholesterol levels will be good as will our overall cardiovascular health. This is because we would have eliminated trans fats and increased monounsaturated fats in our diets. Also, while losing weight, exercises, quitting smoking, reducing cholesterol and blood pressure can reduce LDL cholesterol, researchers have to propose and validate interventions to manage high HDL cholesterol.