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Everybody knows HDL cholesterol or High-Density Lipoprotein is good for health while LDL or Low-Density Lipoprotein is bad. However, HDL is not always good for health. One recent study shows, HDL can be bad for heart health. Before getting into the topic, I would like to explain what HDL and LDL are.
HDL and LDL are the lipoproteins that carry cholesterol, fatty acids, Triacylglycerols and proteins. There are four different types of lipoproteins, High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL), Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL), Very Low-Density Lipoprotein (VLDL) and Chylomicrons.
Normally, HDL particles carry cholesterol and cholesteryl esters and cholesterol from peripheral tissues to the liver for catabolism. In opposite to the function of HDL, LDL particles carry cholesterol from the liver to peripheral tissues where cholesterol is required. Therefore, people who have a higher level of HDL cholesterol are usually healthier than others.
However, this is not always true. According to a recent study published in the Journal Science, HDL can be bad for heart health. A 67-year-old woman with a significantly high level of HDL cholesterol, that supposed to be protective against heart diseases, had been found to have plaques in her arteries. This unusual case motivated a team of researchers to think HDL in a different way. They showed how the higher level of HDL can reveal the inability of the cholesterol system to eliminate the fatty particles from the circulation.
Daniel Rader from the University of Pennsylvania, who is a geneticist and lipidologist, suggested that the level of the HDL is not so important than how quickly and effectively it moves from the blood arteries to the liver for catabolism. In fact, Rader was inspired from a mouse model that was developed about 20 years ago by a researcher Monty Krieger.
During the development of the mouse model, Monty deleted a gene SCARB1 that led to the production of a higher amount of the HDL particles as well as severe clogging in the arteries of the model mouse. HDL particles normally carry the cholesterol from the immune cells around the lining of the arteries and deposit cholesterol in the liver to continue the cycle.