The HUNT 2 Study which appeared in the Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice earlier this year concluded that cholesterol is an overestimated risk factor in current clinical guidelines for the prevention of cardiovascular disease.
The Norwegian study assessed over 52,000 Norwegians over a 10 year period and part of the study was to assess the relationship between total cholesterol levels and risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
The study showed that overall risk of death was not any higher in men with cholesterol levels over 7.0 mmol/l – in fact the lowest risk of death in men was seen in those whose cholesterol levels were between 5.0 and 5.9 mmol/l.
In women however the results were even more astounding. The higher the cholesterol level the lower the overall risk of death. Compared to women with cholesterol levels lower than 5.0 mmol/l the women with levels 7.0 or higher were 28 per cent less likely to die overall.
Author of the research ‘Is the use of cholesterol in mortality risk algorithms in clinical guidelines valid? Ten years prospective data from the Norwegian HUNT 2 Study isDr Halfdan Petursson. He says that the current European guidelines to keep cholesterol levels below 5 – particularly for women – are misleading. ‘Our study provides an updated epidemiological indication of possible errors in the CVD risk algorithms of many clinical guidelines’ he says.
‘Of course this was an observational study not a randomized control study. But nevertheless it has shown that women with high cholesterol live longer. Most studies have purely looked at cholesterol groups that show a strong linear association. The moment you adjust for age in women aged 50 or older the association becomes reversed’ he says.
‘The message to the public that if your cholesterol measures 6 or 7 perhaps the way to go is not to immediately try to lower it. We believe that public health recommendations regarding the ‘dangers’ of cholesterol should be revised. This is especially true for women, for whom moderately raised cholesterol may prove not only to be harmless but even beneficial’ he adds.