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Study: HDL, or 'good' cholesterol, could be less beneficial depending on race

Established belief on HDL cholesterol stemmed from a 1970s study.
patient in healthcare facility
Posted at 10:33 PM, Nov 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-23 14:09:17-05

Established belief about high-density lipoprotein, or HDL, cholesterol suggested that what has been often called "good" cholesterol, could not be as protective as once thought.

A new study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology now suggests that low levels of HDL cholesterol were found to be associated with higher risk of heart attack in white adults, but not in Black adults.

Conventional belief in HDL cholesterol's protection against heart attack and coronary heart disease risk stemmed from a 1970s study, and has been widely accepted in heart disease risk assessments.

Nathalie Pamir, an author of the study who is part of the Knight Cardiovascular Institute at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, Oregon, said, “It’s been well accepted that low HDL cholesterol levels are detrimental, regardless of race. Our research tested those assumptions,”

Pamir said, “It could mean that in the future, we don’t get a pat on the back by our doctors for having higher HDL cholesterol levels.”

“The goal was to understand this long-established link that labels HDL as the beneficial cholesterol, and if that’s true for all ethnicities,” said Pamir.

Dr. Tara Narula, associate director of the Lenox Hill Women’s Heart Program told CNN that the new findings show "the very important need for more race- and ethnic-specific research and that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Additionally, this research emphasizes the continued need to educate that high levels of HDL are not a free pass and focus must be placed on controlling elevated LDL and other known markers of increased cardiovascular risk."