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HEALTH REPORT - June 5, 2002: Increasing Good Cholesterol - 2002-06-03

This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

A medical study in the Netherlands shows that a new substance can increase the level of good cholesterol in the blood. Doctors say this could protect people against heart attacks. Many people are taking drugs now to lower bad cholesterol. Yet some research suggests that the level of good cholesterol is more important than the level of bad cholesterol.

The fatty substance known as cholesterol is important for human life. The body needs it to create cells and hormones, and to operate the nervous system. All the cholesterol a person needs is produced naturally in the liver. This cholesterol is sent into the blood so that cells can get some when they need it. Low density lipoproteins, or LDL, transport cholesterol into the blood. LDL in the blood that has not been used by the cells is called bad cholesterol.

High density lipoproteins are known as HDL. HDL are considered good because they gather up the cholesterol not used by the cells and move it back to the liver to be destroyed. If LDL levels are too high, there is more cholesterol in the blood than the HDL can remove. The extra cholesterol attaches to the inside of the arteries. It can block blood flow and cause heart attack or stroke.

If HDL levels are high, the HDL is moving the unneeded cholesterol out of the blood, back to the liver. This prevents the cholesterol from attaching to the arteries. As a result, medical researchers are looking for ways to increase the HDL, or good cholesterol.

The drug involved in the new test was developed in Japan. It is called a C-E-T-P inhibitor. It blocks the action of a protein that lowers the amount of HDL in the body. Researchers in the Netherlands tested it on one-hundred-ninety-eight people. They found that it increased the good HDL cholesterol by as much as thirty-four percent. CETP also lowered the bad LDL cholesterol in some people by seven percent. The results were reported in the magazine, Circulation.

John Kastelein of the University of Amsterdam wrote the report. He said it is the first published study showing good results in people from a drug that increases HDL cholesterol. More studies must be done to show if the drug really decreases the chance of heart disease.

This VOA Special English Health Report was written by Nancy Steinbach.