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Surprise -- cholesterol may actually pose benefits, study shows

COLLEGE STATION, Jan. 9, 2008 If youre worried about high cholesterol levels and keeping heart-healthy as you get older, dont push aside bacon and eggs just yet. A new study says they might actually provide a benefit.

Researchers at Texas A&M University have discovered that lower cholesterol levels can actually reduce muscle gain with exercising. Lead investigator Steven Riechman, assistant professor of health and kinesiology, and Simon Sheather, head of the Department of Statistics, along with colleagues from The Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center and the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, have recently had their findings published in the Journal of Gerontology.

Bottom line: Before you have that second helping of oatmeal, its very possible that cholesterol may not be the mean Mr. Evil thing we tend to believe it is.

We were not expecting to get these kind of results, Riechman explains.

We need further research in this area, but what we found could really make us look differently at cholesterol, especially as it relates to a vigorous workout.

The team studied 55 men and women, ages 60-69, who were healthy non-smokers and were able to perform exercise testing and training.

Three days a week for 12 weeks, participants performed several exercises, including stretching, stationary bike riding and vigorous weight lifting. Those who had to miss one or more sessions all conducted make-up sessions so that by the studys end, the entire group had engaged in uniform activities. Also, all participants consumed similar meals.

At the conclusion of the study, the researchers found that there was a significant association of dietary cholesterol and change in strength. In general, those with higher cholesterol intake also had the highest muscle strength gain.

Cholesterol circulating in the blood also appeared to have contributed to greater muscle gain in the participants, Riechman said.

One possible explanation is through cholesterol

Contact: Steve Riechman
Texas A&M University

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