My father was a science teacher and despite the fact that I make my living with words, I have a secret fascination for science. I just love watching as researchers continue to peel back the layers of the mystery that is our health and make new discoveries that just may result in a healthier future for all of us. Research regarding cholesterol, specifically high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good” cholesterol, is one of the areas where science has recently made some interesting discoveries.
Because it’s long been believed that HDL cholesterol provided protective benefits to the heart, research has been more focused on understanding and reducing levels of the “bad” or low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels than understanding HDL cholesterol. This trend has been changing and HDL cholesterol has recently been the focus of some interesting studies. One of the more interesting discoveries is that not all good cholesterol is created equal. New research indicates that some HDL cholesterol is, well, of better quality than other HDL cholesterol.
In findings published in the December, 2008, edition of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), University of Chicago researchers revealed that some people did not enjoy protective benefits from HDL cholesterol, even when their HDL levels were normal or high. Basically, the view has been that as long as HDL levels were normal, you were in good shape in terms of developing heart disease or suffering a cardiovascular event (heart attack, angina, etc.). The University of Chicago findings challenge the traditional view that high levels of HDL cholesterol automatically provides protective benefits for the heart.
Researchers discovered that not only does HDL cholesterol fail to provide protective heart health benefits to some people, but that HDL cholesterol also comes in various levels of quality. The study found that the HDL cholesterol was not the same in healthy persons when compared to those who suffered from chronic illnesses such as diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis.