June 27, 2016

No Association Between 'Bad Cholesterol' and Elderly Deaths

TAMPA, Fla -- June 27, 2016 -- A study published in the British Medical Journal suggests that older people with high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL-C), live as long, and often longer, than their peers with low levels of this same cholesterol.

The findings, which came after analysing past studies involving more than 68,000 participants over 60 years of age, call into question the "cholesterol hypothesis," which previously suggested people with high cholesterol are more at risk of dying and would need statin drugs to lower their cholesterol.

The research team's analysis represents the first review of a large group of prior studies on this issue.

"We have known for decades that high total cholesterol becomes a much weaker risk for cardiovascular disease with advancing age," said David Diamond, PhD, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida. "In this analysis, we focused on the so-called "bad cholesterol" which has been blamed for contributing to heart disease."

According to the authors, either a lack of association or an inverse relationship between LDL-C and cardiovascular deaths was present in each of the studies they evaluated. Subsequently, the research team called for a reevaluation of the need for drugs, such as statins, which are aimed at reducing LDL-C as a step to prevent cardiovascular diseases.

"We found that several studies reported not only a lack of association between low LDL-C, but most people in these studies exhibited an inverse relationship, which means that higher LDL-C among the elderly is often associated with longer life," said Dr. Diamond.

Diamond also points out the research that suggests that high cholesterol may be protective against diseases which are common in the elderly. For example, high levels of cholesterol are associated with a lower rate of neurological disorders, such as Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease. Other studies have suggested that high LDL-C may protect against some often fatal diseases, such as cancer and infectious diseases, and that having low LDL-C may increase one's susceptibility to these diseases.

"Our results pose several relevant questions for future," said study leader Uffe Ravnskov, MD, PhD, The International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics, Lund, Sweden. "For example, why is total cholesterol a factor for cardiovascular disease for young and middle-age people, but not for the elderly? Why do a substantial number of elderly people with high LDL-C live longer than elderly people with low LDL-C?"


"Our findings provide a contradiction to the cholesterol hypothesis," concluded Dr. Diamond. "That hypothesis predicts that cardiovascular disease starts in middle age as a result of high LDL-C cholesterol, worsens with aging, and eventually leads to death from cardiovascular disease. We did not find that trend. If LDL-C is accumulating in arteries over a lifetime to cause heart disease, then why is it that elderly people with the highest LDL-C live the longest? Since people over the age of 60 with high LDL-C live the longest, why should we lower it?"

SOURCE: University Of South Florida
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