Over the course of the past six months I have written about the benefits of high levels of HDL (the good cholesterol) on numerous occasions. The benefits of high levels of HDL are well recorded, and from a personal point of view I know that they have played a significant importance in my daily struggle against the dangers of high cholesterol levels. I do think that it is important to reiterate that while high levels of HDL and good cholesterol numbers don't provide a 100 percent assurance of avoiding a heart attack later in life, they do drastically lower the chances of suffering one.
However, recent news has uncovered another great benefit of having high levels of HDL. As it turns out, high levels of HDL have been found to be a key in deterring cancer. According to a recent study recorded in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, the higher the HDL cholesterol levels, the lower the rate of cancer. In the study, which was based on several thousands of patients with a median follow-up of five years, during which cases of cancer occurred, there was a 36% lower rate of cancer for every 10 mg/dL higher level of HDL. This association held even after adjusting for other factors that can influence both cholesterol and cancer development, including age, body mass index, diabetes, sex, smoking status, and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL), the "bad" cholesterol that clogs arteries and contributes to heart disease.
The researchers who administered the study are still not quite sure what it is about high HDL that lowers the chances of cancer, but they do have a few theories. First, a high level of HDL may have antioxidant properties that protect against cell damage (which would increases the risk of abnormal cell growth or cancer development); second, high HDL may actually boost your immune system and help the body better defend itself against cancer; and, last but not least, high HDL may have anti-inflammatory properties that create a biological environment in which cancer cells cannot thrive. While more studies are necessary and will be forthcoming, these are very promising results in fighting numerous diseases.
As I mentioned above, healthy HDL levels and good cholesterol numbers don't necessarily mean that you will never have a heart attack. There are too many variables at play that can diminish the value of healthy cholesterol numbers for heart disease sufferers. But ultimately, as many studies have confirmed over the past few years, a strong HDL level goes a long way in preventing not just heart disease, but also a host of other illnesses.
Published On: June 18, 2010