Lower cholesterol vital to coronary health, says new US study

Boston: People born with lower levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol as a result of a genetic variation are less likely to suffer coronary heart disease later in life, a new US study has revealed.

In addition, another study has shown that beta glucan, a substance found in porridge oats does lower levels of LDL.

Researchers, in a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, analysed information from 12,000 subjects ages 45 to 64 who took part in an Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study (ARIC), which examined data from four communities in Mississippi, Minnesota, North Carolina and Maryland for 15 years.

They discovered that those with a genetic variation of a gene called PCSK9 had LDL levels to be about 40 mm/dL below average and were eight times less likely to develop coronary heart disease than those without the mutations. Subjects with genetic variations that produced a 20 mg/dL reduction in LDL compared to the average were two times less likely to develop heart disease.

The PCSK9 gene produces an enzyme that reduces the quantity of LDL receptors on the liver’s surface which are responsible for removing bad cholesterol from the blood. The genetic mutation reverses this increasing the number of LDL receptors, therefore removing more bad cholesterol from the blood. Ironically, statin drugs, although they can lower cholesterol, may increase the production of the PCSK9 enzyme.

The study says: “These data indicate that moderate lifelong reduction in the plasma level of LDL cholesterol is associated with a substantial reduction in the incidence of coronary events, even in populations with a high prevalence of non-lipid-related cardiovascular risk factors. “

In the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition another study confirms the effect of beta-glucan on lowering cholesterol.

Researchers examined the effects of a beta-glucan–enriched fruit juice on serum lipids and lipoproteins and on markers of cholesterol absorption and synthesis. In addition, they measured effects on lipid-soluble antioxidants.

Healthy subjects were divided into two groups. The 22 subjects in the placebo group consumed a fruit drink providing 5 grams rice starch per day. The 25 subjects in the treatment group received a fruit drink with beta-glucan from oats for five weeks.