Sugar kills good cholesterol

A substance which is loosely derived from sugar has been found to destroy the ‘good’ cholesterol within the body, instead turning it into ‘bad’ cholesterol.

A research team from the University of Warwick have found that methyglyoxal (MG) is formed from glucose within the body, and damages the ‘good’ High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol which helps to remove the excess levels of ‘bad’ Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL).

LDL is considered to be the worse of the two lipoproteins because it heavily contributes to plaque within the arteries. If an artery becomes narrowed by plaque, and then a clot forms, the artery itself can become blocked and the individual can suffer from either a heart attack or a stroke.

HDL is considered the better form of cholesterol because it helps to remove this LDL cholesterol from arteries.

Scientists have research which suggests that HDL is a scavenger, hunting out LDL cholesterol and carrying it away from the arteries to the liver, where it is then broken down and disposed by the body.

The research, which was funded by the British Heart Foundation, discovered that methylglyoxal (MG) destabilises the good HDL and causes it to lose the properties is has in finding and disposing of LDL.

HDL which has been damaged is quickly cleared from the blood, or stays within plasma having lost most of its function – reducing the body’s total HDL count.

Lower levels of HDL have been linked with medical conditions such as heart disease, and increased levels of MG have been linked to the elderly and those with the medical conditions of diabetes and kidney problems.

Lead researcher, Dr Naila Rabbani said that the MG damage to HDL causes a significant increase in the risk of conditions such as heart disease, “MG damage to HDL is a new and likely important cause of low and dysfunctional HDL, and could count for up to a 10 per cent risk of heart disease.”

Currently, there are no drugs on the market which can reverse having low levels of HDL, but the new research is hoped to reveal exactly how MG damaged HDL and in turn gives scientists ideas for strategies to help reduce MG levels.

“By understanding how MG damages HDL, we can now focus on developing drugs that reduce the concentration of MG in the blood, but it might not only be drugs that can help.” Dr Rabbani added.

One strategy which could be used to help patients with high cholesterol would be to develop food supplements that decrease the levels of MG in the bloodstream by increasing the amount of protein called glyoxalase 1 (Glo1) which converts the MG to harmless substances.

Dr Rabbani summarised saying, “This means that in the future we have both new drugs and new foods that can help prevent and correct low HDL, all through the control of MG.”

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