Diabetes Self-Management Blog

High-density lipoprotein cholesterol, also known as HDL or “good” cholesterol, helps control blood glucose levels by improving the function of skeletal muscles and reducing fat levels, according to research recently published in Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association.

Rates of cardiovascular disease are significantly increased in people who have Type 2 diabetes; low levels of HDL cholesterol and one of its major components, apolipoprotein A-I (ApoA-I), serve as a strong predictor for the development of cardiovascular disease. To investigate this connection, scientists in Germany and Finland looked at two different strains of mice, one of which had increased levels of HDL cholesterol and ApoA-I and the other of which had reduced levels of the substances.

The researchers found that, without ApoA-I, the burning of calories in skeletal muscles is reduced, leading to increased blood glucose levels and weaker muscles. From this they determined that HDL cholesterol and ApoA-I facilitates the usage of glucose and calories within the muscle cells. High levels of HDL and ApoA-I in mice were associated with protection against high blood glucose levels and typical symptoms of aging, such as decline in muscle performance and an increase in fat mass.

“Our results link for the first time low HDL cholesterol with impaired use of glucose and burning of calories in Type 2 diabetes,” says researcher Susanna M. Hofmann, MD. “[The] results are highly relevant for women with Type 2 diabetes. Their risk for cardiovascular diseases compared to men with Type 2 diabetes is significantly increased, because these women have low concentrations of HDL-cholesterol and ApoA-I.”

The researchers suggest that their findings may allow for the development of new types of diabetes treatments.

Steps that can help boost HDL levels include not smoking; losing extra weight; increasing physical activity; emphasizing mono- and polyunsaturated fats over saturated and trans fats; and taking niacin, fibrates, or statins, if prescribed.

For more information, read the article “‘Good’ Cholesterol Controls Blood Glucose” or see the study’s abstract in the journal Circulation. And to learn more about the metabolic syndrome, click here to read “Lifestyle Habits for Lipid Management,” by dietitian Heidi Mochari.

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