New research challenges conventional wisdom on good and bad cholesterol

Feb 01, 2011

Scientists say cholesterol more complicated than previously thought

Despite a generally held belief that large amounts of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol - HDL, or "good" cholesterol - by itself is good for cardiac health, new research published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that the way HDL cholesterol functions in the bloodstream is more important than how much is there.

Health enthusiasts have long known that low levels of HDL cholesterol were strongly associated with increased risk of heart disease, according to Health Day News, but the media outlet also said there was no similar positive effect seen from high levels of HDL.

Positive health effects were seen, instead, in patients whose HDL more effectively filtered out other types of cholesterol from the bloodstream, the researchers said. They monitored a new metric, called cholesterol efflux capacity, to reach their conclusion.

Too much cholesterol - even HDL - can be bad for overall health. People with a higher risk of heart disease tend not to live as long as others - and they frequently pay higher life insurance premiums as well, experts say.

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