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2 New Types of "Bad" Cholesterol Discovered This Year

For the second time this year, scientists have discovered a new "bad" form of cholesterol. Both are impervious to dietary or medical treatment.
By Hana Levi Julian
First Publish: 12/27/2009, 3:35 PM / Last Update: 12/27/2009, 5:46 PM

Scientists have discovered a second “new” form of “bad” cholesterol they say can contribute to heart disease.

Lipoprotein(a), or Lp(a), apparently does not respond to diet or cholesterol medication – but neither does it carry the same risk as the first-generation “bad” cholesterol, LDL.

According to the findings of a study reported this month in the New England Journal of Medicine, lead author Professor Martin Farrall said Lp(a) appears to upset the blood-clotting process. The study, funded by the British Heart Foundation, used gene-chip technology to scan DNA that had previously been identified to contain potential risk areas for heart disease. Two genetic factors were identified.

Nonetheless, Farrall emphasized that “the increase in risk to people from high Lp(a) levels is significantly less severe that the risk from high LDL cholesterol levels. So Lp(a) doesn’t trump LDL, which has a larger impact and which we can already control pretty effectively.”  The aim, he added, is to find a medication that will simultaneously control both.

Newer Cholesterol Culprit Identified Earlier
Another new form of “bad” cholesterol was identified earlier this year by a researcher at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Khen-Yu Chen, Ph.D. presented his findings at the 238th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society earlier in the year.

In an interview published by Science Daily this past August, Chen said oxycholesterol – which at present also cannot be controlled by diet or current medications on the market -- might turn out to be the most serious threat of all to cardiovascular health.

Oxycholesterol was proved to reduce the elasticity of arteries and impaired their ability to expand and carry more blood throughout the body. It also produced more deposits of cholesterol in the lining of arteries and a tendency to develop larger fatty deposits -- atherosclerotic plaques -- which increase the risk for heart attack and stroke.

"Our work demonstrated that oxycholesterol boosts total cholesterol levels and promotes atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) more than non-oxidized cholesterol," Chen told Science Daily.

Foods containing high amounts of oxycholesterol include anything fried or highly processed, including the average "fast food." Oxidation occurs when fatty foods are heated -- so forget those griben treats (fried chicken morsels produced when rendering chicken fat) that older-generation Ashkenazi Jews love so much. Likewise the ubiquitous Israeli snack foods found on every street corner, the deep-fried chickpea balls known as felafel, and shnitzel -- breaded and deep-fried fish or chicken cutlets.

The good news is that a diet rich in antioxidants can counter these effects, accordin to Chen, who said that antioxidants might block the process that forms oxycholesterol. Such a diet includes fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and certain herbs and spices.