The bad boy of cholesterol
There are a few notorious bad boys that we all know. Numbered among that notorious club we could include Muammar Gadaffi, cigarettes, lycra body shirts, and cholesterol. We canâ€™t shed light on all of these today, and honestly lycra body shirts do not warrant lighting of any description other than â€œsetting alightâ€, but thanks to a new study we can report on a type of cholesterol that is an even worse bad boy than we thought.
By now most people know that there is good and bad cholesterol. â€œGoodâ€ cholesterol is carried in â€œhigh density lipoproteinsâ€ (HDL) and bad cholesterol is carried in â€œlow density lipoproteinsâ€ (LDL). There is also very low density lipoprotein (VLDL) but now researchers from the University of Warwick have identified an even more sinister form of cholesterol package that they have called MG-min-low-density-lipoprotein.
These researchers found that if you add sugar groups to normal LDL cholesterol, it becomes denser and smaller. The adding of the sugar groups is a process called glycation and it causes the LDL to change shape.
The changed shape of the LDL cholesterol is not a mere matter of internal aesthetics because the new shape reflects new regions on the cholesterol which are more likely to attach to artery walls and build up into fatty plaques that can disrupt blood flow. The artery can rupture and blood clots can form increasing risk of heart attack and stroke.
So MGmin-LDL is a nastier stickier form of cholesterol that results when levels of sugar in the blood are high. This might tell us partly why people with diabetes are more likely than others to have a heart attack or stroke.
The promising news is that lowering blood sugar should reduce the formation of MGmin-LDL. In fact metformin, a diabetes drug that lowers blood sugar levels might have its proven capacity to lower heart disease risk because it stops LDL being transformed into MGmin-LDL. One has to wonder as well whether a herb that lowers blood sugar like Gymnema sylvestre might have a similar effect?
It just goes to show that everything thatâ€™s sweet and sticky is not jam, and you donâ€™t want MG-min on your toast, or in your arteries.