/publications/issue/2006/2006-06/2006-06-5577

CHOLESTEROL WATCH

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Researchers Find Statin Reverses Heart Disease

Researchers have found what they describe as the best evidence yet that heart disease can not only be stopped, but reversed. A study in which people saw their low-density lipoprotein (LDL; "bad"cholesterol) levels reduced to the lowest ever seen gives a glimmer of hope to the more than 107 million Americans with high cholesterol. Two thirds of the 349 participants in the study had regression of coronary artery buildups when they took the maximum dosage of rosuvastatin (Crestor), already the strongest statin on the market, for 2 years. The researchers stated that Crestor skimmed the buildup of calcium, fat, and other deposits in the patient's arteries by as much as 9%. The statin also cut LDL levels in the blood by 52.2% and raised the high-density lipoprotein ("good" cholesterol) levels by almost 15%—results unheard of in past studies. The results of the study were released 3 months ago in the Journal of the American Medical Association.


Treatment Gaps Exist Among Races, Sexes

A recent study of Caucasian, Hispanic, Chinese, and African Americans in 6 US communities showed that distinct disparities exist in the prevalence, treatment, and control of dyslipidemia, a family of cholesterol disorders. The results of the study were reported in the February 7, 2006, edition of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, NC, reviewed information on 6814 patients who had participated in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. Of the 6704 patients with complete data, 29% had cholesterol abnormalities.

Differences in treatment found in the participants included the following:

Cholesterol Levels May Rise in Low-carb Dieters

A synthesis of data from 5 previous studies suggests that, although low-fat and low-carbohydrate diets appear to be effective for weight loss for up to 1 year, low-carb diets may be connected to higher overall and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels. The results of this study were published in the February 13, 2006, issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

A total of 447 people, average age 45 years, were studied in 2 groups, a low-fat diet group and a low-carb diet group. After 6 months, the low-carb group was more likely to remain on the diet and had lost more weight than the low-fat group. After 12 months, however, blood pressure levels, completion rates, and weight loss were equal for both groups. More importantly, after 6 and 12 months, those in the low-carb group had raised total cholesterol and LDL levels. The researchers did note, however, that the low-carb group also had lower triglyceride levels and higher high-density lipoprotein levels than the low-fat group.

The researchers noted that "the differences in weight loss between the [low-carb] and low-fat diets after 12 months were minor and not clinically relevant."In light of this evidence, they concluded that, "in the absence of evidence that [low-carb] diets reduce cardiovascular [CV] morbidity and mortality, such diets currently cannot be recommended for prevention of CV disease."


Red Grapefruit Can Help Reduce Cholesterol

Researchers in Israel have found that grapefruit, particularly the deep red Star Ruby kind, can help reduce cholesterol in some patients who do not respond well to statins. The findings of the study were published in the March 22, 2006, issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

The researchers tested 57 patients, aged 39 to 72 years, who had undergone coronary bypass surgery and had previously been using simvastatin to lower their cholesterol levels but found the medicine to be ineffective. These patients were divided randomly into 3 groups: one group ate 1 red grapefruit daily, one group 1 white grapefruit, and one group no grapefruit at all. Otherwise, all groups consumed the same daily diet, and none of the participants took lipid-lowering drugs during the course of the study.

After 1 month, there were no differences in heart rate, blood pressure, or weight in the 3 groups. The group that ate the red grapefruit, however, showed significantly reduced levels of triglycerides in the blood, as well as increased antioxidant activity (along with the white grapefruit group).