It’s not only what you eat and how much you exercise. New research shows genetic factors are also key to cholesterol levels — a finding that suggests no matter how much you work out or watch your diet, you may not be able to manage cholesterol by lifestyle changes alone.
In the largest-ever genetic study of cholesterol and other blood lipids, an international consortium identified 21 new gene defects associated with risks of heart disease and metabolic disorders. The researchers said the findings point the way for potential drugs and other treatments for cholesterol-related cardiovascular disease.
"While each of the genetic variants has a small effect on the specific lipid trait, their cumulative effect can significantly add up to put people at risk for disease," said Dr. Fotios Drenos, a University College London health specialist who helped conduct the study, published in the American Journal of Human Genetics.SPECIAL: These 5 Things Flush 40 lbs. of Fat Out of Your Body — Read More.
“This study underscores how international sharing of resources and datasets paves the way for robust, continuing discoveries of new and unexpected information from human genetic studies."
For the study, an organization known as the International IBC Lipid Genetics Consortium used the Cardiochip — a gene analysis tool — to pinpoint gene variants tied to blood cholesterol levels. A team of more than 180 researchers worldwide analyzed genetic information from 90,000 individuals.
The analysis identified 21 new genes associated with levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDL, or "bad cholesterol"), high-density lipoproteins (HDL, "good cholesterol"), total cholesterol (TC), and triglycerides (TG).
The consortium is now working to refine its findings to help in the development of novel drugs.
“The current study identified 21 potential new targets for drug development,” said lead researcher Dr. Folkert Asselbergs, of University Medical Center, Utrecht. "Our team of researchers [is] now initiating additional studies to investigate the impact of the found genes on cardiovascular disease."