Low Cholesterol – that can be a problem

Study: Too Little Cholesterol Also A Risk

January 5, 2001

TOKYO (Asahi News Service) – Most people are aware of the dangers of excess cholesterol, but recent research has found that those whose cholesterol levels are too low are also at risk. A healthy human body must have between 180 and 240 milligrams of cholesterol per 100 milliliters of blood, according to the findings.

Researchers at Banyu Pharmaceutical Co. said they made the discovery in the course of large-scale clinical trials of a drug that reduces cholesterol levels in the human body.

Between 1992 and 1999, the researchers administered the drug, Simvastatin, to about 50,000 people aged between 35 and 70 who were diagnosed as having hypercholesterolemia, or too much cholesterol.

Of the approximately 40,000 patients who had no history of heart problems, about 800 died during the trial period. Causes of death included heart failure, cancer and strokes, the researchers said.

The research team found that patients whose cholesterol levels were between 180 and 280 milligrams per 100 milliliters of blood died at the same rate as did the general population. But the death rate for those whose cholesterol levels fell outside – either above or below – the 180-280 milligram range was more than twice that of people whose cholesterol was within the range.

If the number of cardiac infarctions and other heart diseases is included, the mortality rate rises for people whose cholesterol level exceeds the 240-milligram level.

Mortality rates were at their lowest when overall cholesterol levels included between 80 and 160 milligrams of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) – the so-called bad cholesterol. Higher or lower LDL levels correlated with an increased mortality rate.

The Japan Arteriosclerosis Society currently specifies in its guidelines an overall cholesterol level of more than 220 milligrams and an LDL level of more than 140 milligrams as indication of hypercholesterolemia. Those maximums are even lower for people with other risk factors, such as obesity.

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