What Doctors Got Wrong About ‘Good’ Cholesterol

A new genetic study published in the journal Science suggests that contrary to the conventional wisdom, high levels of good cholesterol aren’t necessarily heart-protective for everyone.

“Twenty years ago, if you had high bad cholesterol and high good cholesterol, doctors said don’t worry about it — one offsets the other,” Dr. Scott Wright, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic, who wasn’t involved in the study, told The Huffington Post.”I never really bought that, and time has proven my skepticism to be correct. You can have a heart attack despite having a high level of good cholesterol.”

Doctors have long assumed that high levels of good cholesterol were intrinsically heart-protective, in recent years companies have focused on developing medications that boost these levels, with decidedly underwhelming results. Instead, according to this latest research, some people with naturally high good cholesterol due to a genetic mutation are at an increased risk of heart disease.

“It challenges our conventional wisdom about whether ‘good’ cholesterol is protecting people from heart disease or not,” study author Adam Butterworth, a researcher at the University of Cambridge, told BBC. Drugs “trying to raise HDL may not be that useful,” he said.

The difference between good and bad cholesterol

In general, high levels of bad (LDL) cholesterol leads to build up of the fatty, wax-like substance throughout the body, and good (HDL) cholesterol picks up those LDL deposits and clears them out of the body via the digestive tract. You would think that a stronger waste-management system (read: high levels of good cholesterol) would mean the body is running efficiently and you’re healthier, but the new Science study shows that in some cases, that’s not true.

The study analyzed 1,000 people with a SCARB1 gene mutation, which leads to naturally elevated good cholesterol levels, and found —> Read More