Condition can lead to heart attack and stroke, researchers note
TUESDAY, May 20 (HealthDay News) -- Higher levels of LDL cholesterol "packets" that have undergone oxidation are associated with an increased risk of developing metabolic syndrome, a constellation of conditions that can lead to heart attack and stroke, a new study finds.
Previous studies with animals and cell models have linked metabolic syndrome to oxidized LDL cholesterol, the "bad" kind that can build up and block blood vessels. However, this new long-term study shows the association in people, said David R. Jacobs Jr., a Mayo professor of public health at the University of Minnesota, and a member of the team reporting the findings in the May 21 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
"Cholesterol in the blood is associated with the problem of atherosclerosis," or blockage of blood vessels, Jacobs explained. "It is important to the health of arteries that cholesterol be able to zip into and out of cells. If the particle is not oxidized, cholesterol does its stuff and comes out again, doing no damage. The thought is that what is happening in atherosclerosis is that minimal oxidation initiates damage to the artery wall."
What gets oxidized is not the cholesterol itself, but its protein coating, Jacobs explained. "Cholesterol is a fat and it is not soluble in water," he said. "It needs to be surrounded by proteins. Those particles which contain cholesterol float in the bloodstream and interact with the walls of blood vessels."
Cholesterol is a vital ingredient of all cells, so it must be able to enter and leave them quickly, Jacobs explained. Severely oxidized LDL cholesterol is quickly eliminated from the body, but the slightly oxidized version can linger to cause damage.
The oxidized version is only a minor fraction of all LDL cholesterol, ranging from almost none in healthy individuals to 5 percent in tho
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