Such trials should help establish whether reducing triglyceride concentration can reduce the risk of heart disease, he said. "There are several medications currently available or under development that can influence blood triglyceride levels," he noted.
Drug maker Novartis, the British Heart Foundation and the UK Medical Research Council funded the study.
Dr. Gregg C. Fonarow, a professor of cardiovascular medicine and director of the Ahmanson-UCLA Cardiomyopathy Center at the University of California, Los Angeles, also said more research is needed.
"Elevated LDL cholesterol has been definitively established as a major modifiable cardiovascular risk factor," he said. "There is also strong evidence that low levels of HDL identify individuals at increased risk for cardiovascular events. However, the independent role that elevated triglyceride levels play in cardiovascular risk has been more difficult to establish and controversial," he said.
This study suggests a modest independent association between triglycerides and coronary heart disease, Fonarow said.
"Despite these findings it still remains to be demonstrated whether lowering triglyceride levels in patients with -- or at risk for -- cardiovascular disease will in and of itself reduce the risk of cardiovascular events and if so by how much," he said.
Another expert, Dr. Byron Lee, an assistant professor of cardiology at the University of California, San Francisco, suggested the study could alter the guidelines for heart prevention. "Traditionally, clinicians have focused only on getting our patients' LDL down and our HDL up because we thought that these were the major players in heart disease," he said.
"However, this study indicates that we need to now worry about high triglyceride levels as well," he added.
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