April 29, 2009 / 1:01 AM / in 10 years

"Good" cholesterol may guard against MS disability

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - High levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol may help protect against disabilities related to multiple sclerosis or MS.

HDL has anti-inflammatory properties and thus it might benefit MS, a disease of chronic inflammation. Preliminary data to support this theory were reported today at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting in Seattle.

The findings, study investigator Dr. Bianca Weinstock-Guttman told Reuters Health, suggest that people with MS should have their HDL levels checked. If they’re low, “consider dietary and medical interventions, such as statins and fish oil (omega -3) supplements, which are known to increase HDL levels.”

Weinstock-Guttman and colleagues from the State University of New York at Buffalo analyzed clinical, demographic and HDL data on 186 MS patients whose average age was 50 years.

At the start of the study, almost 20 percent of the participants had low HDL levels while close to 50 percent had high levels.

Over the next 6 years, an association between the level of HDL cholesterol and the level of disability became apparent. Patients with higher scores on the Expanded Disability Severity Scale (EDSS) initially were significantly less likely to have high levels of HDL at follow-up, the investigators report in printed information made available at the meeting.

“We found that the patients with greater disability, or higher EDSS scores, were almost twice as likely to have low HDL levels compared to patients with less disability, or lower EDSS scores,” Weinstock-Guttman added in comments to Reuters Health.

Further studies regarding the relationship between HDL levels and MS disease progression are warranted, the investigators conclude.

“Increase in HDL is an important factor known to prevent cardiovascular events but also appears beneficial in preventing chronic inflammation,” Weinstock-Guttman noted, adding that both statins and omega-3s have preliminarily shown “beneficial effects for MS patients.”

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