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More Dangerous to Your Heart than LDL

If you care about reducing your risk of stroke or heart attack, you may be hearing more about chylomicrons in the not very distant future. According to new research, chylomicrons -- metabolized balls of fat and cholesterol that enter the blood stream through the intestines after a meal -- could be more dangerous than low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.

Because chylomicrons are processed so quickly (usually about 15 minutes after your last bite of food), when a patient gives a blood sample after fasting for 12 hours or more, chylomicron cholesterol will usually comprise just 3 percent of all the cholesterol in the sample.

Why are scientists so interested in chylomicrons? Experts have been at a loss to explain why 40 percent of people who are highly vulnerable to suffering a stroke or heart attack have low or normal LDL levels. Understanding chylomicrons and their metabolism, researchers said, could explain how cholesterol really works, including the role it plays in the development of diabetes, obesity and other cardiovascular diseases.

Using unique imaging tools, scientists tracked the formation and delivery pathways of chylomicrons in rabbits. Their research showed chylomicron remnants form smaller lipoproteins, which can build up more quickly in arteries than any other type of cholesterol-carriers, including LDL.

EurekAlert November 23, 2004

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