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When ‘good’ cholesterol goes bad?

Australian researchers have found a link between high HDL-cholesterol levels and age-related macular degeneration

20 Jan 2018 by Selina Powell

A study incorporating genetic data from more than 400,000 people has found those with high HDL-cholesterol levels (commonly referred to as ‘good cholesterol’) have an elevated risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

The University of Queensland research, which is published in Nature Communications, analysed seven known health risk factors and more than 30 common diseases.

Professor Jian Yang explained that the method identified 45 potentially causal associations between health risk factors and diseases.

“Some of these associations – such as the link between BMI and type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease – have already been confirmed in randomised controlled trials, which validates our methods,” Professor Yang elaborated.

“Others identified in this study provide candidates for prioritisation in future trials, and fundamental knowledge to understand the biology of the diseases. For example, we identified a highly significant risk effect of HDL-cholesterol on AMD,” he highlighted.

Although LDL-cholesterol is known to be a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, the study found that LDL-cholesterol lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes.

“Discoveries like this could have significant implications for medical research, the pharmaceutical industry and public health policy,” Professor Yang emphasised. 


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