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Italian researchers have found that a genetic variation that can save individuals in their 40s and 50s also may reduce their chances of living into old age. These findings appear to come from the gene's influence on levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL; "bad") cholesterol.Writing in BMC Medical Genetics (February 2004), the researchers reported that individuals with a particular form of the gene had dramatically lower levels of LDL.
Earlier research showed that the gene form linked to low LDL cholesterol usually occurs among adults; however, it is rarely present in healthy elderly adults. This example suggests that the low-cholesterol gene can protect the heart in middle age, but that it also may interfere with reaching old age.