Having increased levels of LDL cholesterol may actually be associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, according to a new study.
The research states that levels of LDL, HDL and possibly even triglycerides have been found to be associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.
The multi-nation team of researchers acknowledge that increased LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels could increase the risk of coronary artery disease (CAD).
While LDL cholesterol is causally related to CAD, the researchers highlighted prior to this study that the relevance of HDL cholesterol and triglycerides is unclear.
Dr. Michael Holmes, of the University of Oxford, and colleagues utilised new approaches using genetics to examine the associations of LDL and HDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels with CAD and type 2 diabetes.
They found that all three lipids were associated with reduced type 2 diabetes risk, and these findings could lead to further research into cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins.
Patients with naturally lower LDL cholesterol levels, similar to those on statin treatment, were found to have a slightly increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
“[This indicates] that the risk is related to LDL levels and not to any separate effect of the statin itself,” said Professor Jeremy Pearso, from the British Heart Foundatio, which funded the study.
Holmes added the findings provide cautionary evidence that therapeutics that lower LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels could abnormally affect blood sugar levels.
“All three lipids were associated with reduced risk of diabetes, [but] it does not necessarily follow that lowering of LDL-C or TG levels through use of drugs that target specific proteins will alter the risk of diabetes,” said Holmes.
“Large-scale genetic and clinical investigations are needed to clarify the effects of pharmacologic lowering of LDL-C and TG levels to gauge dysglycemic associations.”
Holmes concluded that the benefits of statin treatment outweigh the potential risk of developing type 2 diabetes because they can prevent people from suffering a heart attack or stroke.
Incidences of heart disease were more likely among people with genetic mutations that increased their levels of LDL of triglycerides, but these genetic variants were also deemed to be responsible for the reduced type 2 risk.
The findings appear online in JAMA Cardiology.

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