Toronto: Canadian scientists have discovered a protein that causes high levels of "bad" cholesterol and lowers the impact of cholesterol-reducing drugs like statins, increasing the risk of heart disease.
Researchers found that the protein called resistin secreted by fat tissue increases levels of low-density lipoprotein or LDL in human liver cells and also degrades LDL receptors in the liver.
As a result, the liver is less able to clear "bad" cholesterol from the body. Resistin accelerates the accumulation of LDL in arteries, increasing the risk of heart disease.
The research also showed that resistin adversely impacts the effects of statins, the main cholesterol-reducing drug used in the treatment and prevention of cardiovascular disease.
Dr Shirya Rashid, senior author of the study from McMaster University, noted that a staggering 40 per cent of people taking statins are resistant to their impact on lowering blood LDL.
"The bigger implication of our results is that high blood resistin levels may be the cause of the inability of statins to lower patients` LDL cholesterol," Rashid said in a statement.
She believes the discovery could lead to revolutionary new therapeutic drugs, especially those that target and inhibit resistin and thereby increase the effectiveness of statins.
"The possibilities for improved therapy for the causes of cardiovascular disease are very important," said
Abramson noted that the research reconfirms the importance of maintaining a healthy weight and cholesterol level, two critical factors in the prevention of heart disease.
High blood cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. It can lead to a buildup of plaque in the artery walls and narrowing of the arteries, causing a condition called atherosclerosis which can make it more difficult for blood to flow through the heart and body.
Being overweight also increases the likelihood of high blood pressure and diabetes, compounding the risks of heart disease and stroke.
"Fortunately, we know a great deal about heart disease prevention and how to reverse some of the risks," said Abramson.
She urged people to maintain their heart health through regular visits to their doctor, monitoring their weight and waist size, eating a variety of nutritious, low-fat foods and being physically active.
The research was presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress.