Page last updated at 00:00 GMT, Thursday, 24 December 2009

Another 'bad' cholesterol linked to heart disease found

cholesterol test
Home testing kits can check for high cholesterol, but not Lp(a) specifically

Scientists say they have found proof that another "bad" type of cholesterol contributes to heart disease.

Unlike the well-known LDL cholesterol, lipoprotein(a) or Lp(a) cannot be controlled by cutting down on dietary fats or taking a statin drug.

But researchers say high levels do not carry the same risk as LDL.

And other drugs might work to minimise its effects, they told the New England Journal of Medicine.

LDL is considered the aggressive tiger of the cholesterol world, furring the arteries and greatly increasing heart risk. Scientist believe Lp(a), which is inherited, is more of a pussycat, although it does appear to upset blood clotting.

Inherent risk

The researchers used gene-chip technology to scan DNA that they knew from previous studies were potential "hotspots" for heart disease risk. This analysis revealed the two genetic culprits.

Professor Martin Farrall, lead author of the study carried out at Oxford University, said one in six people carries one or more of the genes for Lp(a).

The hope now is that by targeting both we could get even better risk reduction
Lead researcher Professor Martin Farrall

He said: "The increase in risk to people from high Lp(a) levels is significantly less severe than the risk from high LDL cholesterol levels.

"So Lp(a) doesn't trump LDL, which has a larger impact and which we can already control pretty effectively.

"The hope now is that by targeting both we could get even better risk reduction."

Some existing drugs, such as Niacin, and others coming on to the market, such as CETP-inhibitors, lower Lp(a) as well as LDL cholesterol.

Professor Peter Weissberg of the British Heart Foundation, which funded the study, said the findings were useful but urged people not to be alarmed by them.

"They highlight the importance of trying to lower Lp(a), which will spark new efforts to design a medicine to achieve this effectively.

"And they reveal clues that open a new avenue for research to decipher how heart disease develops.

"But LDL is still the type of cholesterol to be more concerned about."

Fats from food are turned into cholesterol by the liver. There are different types but some, such as LDL, are known as "bad" cholesterol. They can lead to a build-up in the body's cells.

Prof Weissberg said everyone could reduce their risk of heart disease by eating a healthy balanced diet, being physically active and avoiding smoking.

Print Sponsor

Millions could be put on statins
10 Feb 09 |  Health
Bad cholesterol genes discovered
12 Jan 08 |  Health
Slow blood flow 'hampers statins'
12 Jul 09 |  Health


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2017 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific