A new study says that raising the level of HDL, the so-called "good cholesterol," doesn't actually lower your chances of having a heart attack. The research conducted by Harvard Medical School looked at people who carry a certain gene found to create higher levels of HDL, but found that people who did carry it had the same risk of a heart attack as everyone else.
Given the wild success of drugs that lower LDL cholesterol — which is still considered a great way to reduce heart disease —there has been a great deal of effort made to find drugs that could raise HDL and have the same effect. However, previous trials involving niacin and an experimental drug developed by Pfizer were abandoned after it was learned that did help, and may have actually caused other problems. Lower HDL levels are still correlated with with a lower risk of heart disease, but it appears now that it may not be the cause of lower risk, but simply be a signifier of some other related condition. One doctors who spoke to The New York Times is worried that the idea of "good cholesterol" is so entrenched in people's minds that it will be hard to get them to accept the new evidence. It may also be hard for some drug companies to accept that their plans for the next billion-dollar miracle drug maybe out the window.
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