When it comes to the good cholesterol, fitness trumps weight

October 9, 2013

There's no question that high levels of good cholesterol—also known as high-density lipoprotein (HDL)—seem to be protective against heart disease. Rather than depositing fat into the blood vessels the way the "bad" cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein (LDL)) does, HDL appears to carry cholesterol away from blood vessels to the liver. From there, the liver processes it for removal from the body.

However, adequate levels of HDL might not be enough. Several recent studies have suggested that many cases of occur in people with normal levels of HDL . Consequently, some researchers believe that even if people have adequate amounts of HDL cholesterol, it might not work well. Such HDL may not fulfill this molecule's other important duties in the body, such as reducing inflammation and acting as an antioxidant.

Because exercise has the potential to protect against heart disease in a variety of ways, Christian K. Roberts and his colleagues at UCLA tested whether HDL in men who weight trained regularly behaved in a healthier way than HDL in sedentary men. They found that the men who didn't exercise were more likely than those who weight trained to have dysfunctional HDL. Having faulty HDL was associated with numerous other risk factors for heart disease, including high triglycerides and a higher trunk fat mass. This finding held true regardless of the men's weight, which suggests that maintaining a "healthy" weight isn't as important for healthy cholesterol function as being active by regularly performing strength training.

The article is entitled "Untrained Young Men Have Dysfunctional HDL Compared to Strength Trained Men Irrespective of Body Weight Status." It appears in the Articles in Press section of Journal of Applied Physiology, published by the American Physiological Society.

Methodology

The researchers worked with 90 men between the ages of 18 and 30 who already had established exercise habits. They separated these participants into three groups: lean men who weight trained at least four times each week, overweight men who also weight trained at least four times each week, and overweight men who had no structured exercise regimen. The researchers took some basic physical measurements from the volunteers, including height and weight, waist circumference, blood pressure, and body composition. They tested the volunteers' muscle strength and their carotid artery thickness (a sign of heart disease), and they took a blood sample. The researchers analyzed that sample for a variety of different molecules present, including cholesterol, insulin, various markers for heart disease including triglycerides and C-reactive protein, and sex hormones. They also checked the volunteers' HDL to see how well it functioned as an antioxidant, a sign of how well their HDL works in general.

Results

The study authors found that HDL functioned better in the participants who had a regular weight-lifting program, regardless of their weight—overweight exercisers' HDL has similar effectiveness as an antioxidant as the lean exercisers' HDL cholesterol. Both groups' HDL performed significantly better than those who didn't exercise. Such dysfunctional HDL was associated with numerous other factors associated with heart disease, such as elevated triglycerides and trunk fat mass.

Importance of the Findings

These findings suggest that regular weight training might improve HDL function and protect against heart disease, even in those who remain overweight. Although indices of were associated with HDL cholesterol function, differences in fitness, the authors say, may be a better measure of who has healthier functioning HDL cholesterol, and therefore, who is at risk of heart disease.

"The role of obesity in the risk of coronary heart disease may indeed be largely accounted for by differences in fitness," the authors say.

Explore further: Low HDL-cholesterol—Not quantity, but quality

More information: jap.physiology.org/content/ear … 9.2013.full.pdf+html

Related Stories

Low HDL-cholesterol—Not quantity, but quality

April 30, 2013
Many of the genes regulating the inflammation and immune response of the body are also associated with low HDL-cholesterol levels in the circulation, tells the recent study conducted at the University of Helsinki, Finland. ...

Measuring HDL particles as opposed to HDL cholesterol is a a better indicator of coronary heart disease

July 11, 2012
A team of researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital, the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health and other institutions, have discovered that measuring HDL particles as opposed to HDL cholesterol is a ...

Some HDL, or 'good' cholesterol, may not protect against heart disease

May 7, 2012
A new study by Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers has found that a subclass of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the so-called "good" cholesterol, may not protect against coronary heart disease (CHD) ...

Study shows exercise and diet improve cholesterol in adults

November 20, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—A study by researchers in the West Virginia University School of Public Health shows that aerobic exercise and diet can improve cholesterol in adults.

With a little exercise, your fat cells may coax liver to produce 'good' cholesterol

October 9, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—With a little exercise and dieting, overweight people with type 2 diabetes can still train their fat cells to produce a hormone believed to spur HDL cholesterol production, report medical researchers from ...

Controlling blood pressure, cholesterol may significantly cut heart disease risk

July 1, 2013
Simultaneously controlling your high blood pressure and high cholesterol may cut your risk for heart disease by half or more, according to new research in the American Heart Association journal Circulation. Yet fewer than ...

Recommended for you

To combat teen smoking, health experts recommend R ratings for movies that depict tobacco use

July 21, 2017
Public health experts have an unusual suggestion for reducing teen smoking: Give just about any movie that depicts tobacco use an automatic R rating.

Why sugary drinks and protein-rich meals don't go well together

July 20, 2017
Having a sugar-sweetened drink with a high-protein meal may negatively affect energy balance, alter food preferences and cause the body to store more fat, according to a study published in the open access journal BMC Nutrition.

Aging Americans enjoy longer life, better health when avoiding three risky behaviors

July 20, 2017
We've heard it before from our doctors and other health experts: Keep your weight down, don't smoke and cut back on the alcohol if you want to live longer.

Opioids and obesity, not 'despair deaths,' raising mortality rates for white Americans

July 20, 2017
Drug-related deaths among middle-aged white men increased more than 25-fold between 1980 and 2014, with the bulk of that spike occurring since the mid-1990s when addictive prescription opioids became broadly available, according ...

Parents have critical role in preventing teen drinking

July 20, 2017
Fewer teenagers are drinking alcohol but more needs to be done to curb the drinking habits of Australian school students, based on the findings of the latest study by Adelaide researchers.

Fresh fish oil lowers diabetes risk in rat offspring

July 19, 2017
Fresh fish oil given to overweight pregnant rats prevented their offspring from developing a major diabetes risk factor, Auckland researchers have found.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

BobSage
1 / 5 (5) Oct 09, 2013
"The study authors found that HDL functioned better in the participants who had a regular weight-lifting program, regardless of their weight".

HOW much better, pray tell? And what exactly would be the real world consequences of lifting more weights?

To the author of this article: please include some basic stats in future articles. Thanks.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.