You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

High cholesterol not a killer: study

Press AssociationPress Association 12/06/2016

Cholesterol has been questioned as a cause of heart disease in older people in a controversial new study.

A review of 19 studies involving 68,094 people, published in the BMJ Open journal, has found there is no association between what has traditionally been considered as "bad" cholesterol and the premature deaths of over 60-year-olds from cardiovascular disease.

Researchers found that 92 per cent of the people in the study with a high cholesterol level lived longer.

Cholesterol is carried in the blood attached to proteins called lipoproteins. There are two main forms, LDL (low density lipoprotein) and HDL (high density lipoprotein). LDL cholesterol is often referred to as "bad cholesterol" because too much is unhealthy. HDL is often referred to as "good cholesterol" because it is protective.

Describing the findings as "robust" and "thoroughly reviewed," joint author Dr Malcolm Kendrick said: "These are the facts but they will be considered controversial".

Dr Kendrick, an intermediate care GP with the Central East Cheshire Trust, said: "What we found in our detailed systematic review was that older people with high LDL levels - the so-called 'bad' cholesterol - lived longer and had less heart disease."

The 17 international experts, who wrote the review, also found an inverse association with all of the deaths that occur in a population, regardless of the cause.

It immediately prompted medical opponents to describe the results as "surprising", "completely the wrong conclusion" and part of a "disappointing unbalanced" paper.

Co-author Professor Sherif Sultan, professor of vascular and endovascular surgery at the University of Ireland, said: "Lowering cholesterol with medications for primary cardiovascular prevention in those aged over 60 is a total waste of time and resources whereas altering your lifestyle is the single most important way to achieve a good quality of life.

"Cholesterol is one of the most vital molecules in the body and in the elderly prevents infection, intra-cerebral bleeds, cancer, premature cataracts, muscle pain and fatigue and thus must be protected and nourished."

Prof Colin Baigent, professor of epidemiology at Oxford University said the study had "serious weaknesses and, as a consequence, has reached completely the wrong conclusion".

Randomized trials of statin therapy which have studied substantial numbers of older people show "very clearly that people benefit just as much from reducing their cholesterol when they are in their 70s as when they are younger," he said.

Prof John Danesh, a British Heart Foundation professor at Cambridge University, felt the research had been based on "crude study methods" meaning that its statistical data regarding cholesterol levels and cardiovascular disease risk cannot be trusted.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon