Heart disease risk may come from little known type of cholesterol

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Health-conscious people know that high levels of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol can increase the risk of heart attacks. Now scientists are reporting that another form of cholesterol called oxycholesterol – virtually unknown to the public – may be the most serious cardiovascular health threat of all.

Scientists from China presented one of the first studies on the cholesterol-boosting effects of oxycholesterol at the 238th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society. The researchers hope their findings raise public awareness about oxycholesterol, including foods with the highest levels of the substance and other foods that can combat oxycholesterol’s effects.


“Total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL), and the heart-healthy high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) are still important health issues,” said study leader Zhen-Yu Chen, Chinese University of Hong Kong. “But the public should recognise that oxycholesterol is also important and cannot be ignored. Our work demonstrated that oxycholesterol boosts total cholesterol levels and promotes atherosclerosis more than non-oxidised cholesterol.”


Fried and processed food, particularly fast-food, contains high amounts of oxycholesterol. Avoiding these foods and eating a diet that is rich in antioxidants, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, may help reduce its levels in the body, the researchers note.


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