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Low HDL Cholesterol Predicts Increased Cancer Risk

Having low levels of HDL cholesterol predicts increased risk for cancers as well as heart attacks (Sci Rep, March 30, 2015;5:9495). Other studies show that the relationship is strong and is unaffected by blood levels of LDL cholesterol, age, weight or history of smoking (Circulation, 2009;120:S406). This new study is a statistical analysis that shows a strong association between low HDL cholesterol and incidence of cancers, but does not speculate on the reasons for this association. I believe that the probable explanation lies in how your body uses up HDL.

How You Use Up HDL Cholesterol
Your body does not want you to have a high rise in blood sugar because it causes sugar to stick to the outer surface membranes of cells and destroys them to damage every cell in your body. So your pancreas releases large amounts of insulin to lower blood sugar levels by driving the sugar from the bloodstream into the liver. Insulin also helps to convert the extra sugar to a type of fat called triglycerides. Having high levels of triglycerides is also harmful, so your HDL cholesterol carries the fatty triglycerides from your bloodstream to your liver where they can be stored (Fut Lipidol 2007;2:285–301). However having extra fat in your liver prevents your liver from lowering high blood sugar levels (Quarterly Journal of Medicine, Sept 18, 2015). So a fatty liver causes high blood sugar levels and diabetes, which also increases cancer risk.

The progression of the warning signs of diabetes is:
• high blood sugar (fasting over 99)
• high insulin (Fasting over 7)
• high triglycerides (fasting over 150)
• low HDL cholesterol (below 35 -- indicating that your good HDL cholesterol has been used to move triglycerides into your liver)
• fatty liver (shown on a sonogram of your liver)
If you have abnormal numbers on any of these tests, you are at increased risk for diabetes and its many side effects, which include increased risk for cancers. See my report below on the recommended Lifestyle Changes.

Interpreting your Cholesterol Numbers
You want your LDL cholesterol to be as low as possible and your HDL cholesterol to be as high as possible. To help you remember, L (from LDL) is "Lousy" and H (from HDL) is "Healthy". Your Lousy LDL should be under 100 and your Healthy HDL should be above 40; higher is better. The total cholesterol number is less important because it is a combination of your LDL (which should be low) and your HDL (which should be high).

In 1948, Harvard researchers started the Framingham Heart Study that has shown that blood cholesterol predicts susceptibility for heart attacks. Data from this huge study show that the Lousy LDL cholesterol increases heart attack risk and the Healthy HDL cholesterol helps to prevent heart attacks. Now we know that high levels of the Healthy HDL cholesterol also reduce cancer risk.

Can Your Cholesterol Be Too Low?
Best Diet to Lower Cholesterol
Carbohydates and HDL Cholesterol

Checked 9/4/16

October 18th, 2015
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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