Life-style and serum lipids and lipoproteins

J Atheroscler Thromb. 2000;7(4):177-97. doi: 10.5551/jat1994.7.177.


In reviewing the trends and influences of life-style in this country on health and disease in the latter half of 20th century, we focused our attention on 4 major habits of smoking, drinking, exercise and diets, and collected data on the Japanese to conduct a meta-analysis of their relationship with serum lipids and lipoproteins, which are the metabolic risk factors most closely related to atherosclerosis. 1) The percentage of smokers was 54.0% in adult males and 14.5% in adult females in 1999. In the data of 7,256 subjects (mean age 47 years) in 16 papers, smoking increased triglycerides by 13 mg/dl (0.15 mmol/L) or in 559 non-drinkers with a mean age of 49 years in 3 papers by 18 mg/dl (0.20 mmol/L), and decreased HDL-cholesterol by 3.5 mg/dl (0.09 mmol/L) with every 20 cigarettes smoked according to the regression equation. 2) As for drinking, the annual ethanol consumption per adult was 8.5L in 1996. The effects of alcohol on serum lipids were analyzed in 27,035 males (mean age 47 years) in 24 studies. Drinking elevated triglycerides by a mean of 10 mg/dl (0.11 mmol/L), and also HDL-cholesterol by 2.5 mg/dl (0.06 mmol/L) per 23 g of alcohol intake (corresponding to 1 go of sake or 1 large bottle of beer). 3) Concerning exercise habit, 25% of males and 21% of females (mean age 47 years) regularly performed exercise such as jogging, swimming, aerobics, and tennis. However, walking was regarded as an easy exercise to be practiced by subjects of all ages. The effects of walking on serum lipids were studied in a total of 46,074 subjects (mean age 47 years) in 8 populations. Triglycerides were significantly lower by 10 mg/dl (0.11 mol/L), and HDL-cholesterol higher by 3 mg/dl (0.08 mmol/L) in those who walked 6,000 or more steps/day than in those who walked less than 2,000 steps/day. The effects of harder exercise like jogging or swimming were analyzed in 2,242 subjects in 14 papers (mean age 44 years). Triglycerides decreased by 10 mg/dl (0.11 mmol/L), and HDL-cholesterol elevated by 5 mg/dl (0.13 mmol/L) with an increase in the exercise intensity by one level of about 300 kcal. In exercise therapy, triglycerides were decreased by a mean of 20 mg/dl (0.23 mmol/L), and HDL cholesterol increased by a mean of 10 mg/dl (0.26 mmol/L) by exercise at a mean heart rate of about 135 bpm, which is equivalent to 50% VO2max for 30 minutes x 3 times/week. 4) In nutritional trends, the mean energy intake in 52 postwar years averaged 2,116+/-84 kcal with no marked changes according to nutritional surveys. However, the percentage of fat in total energy intake was lowest at 7% in 1946, increased thereafter until it exceeded 20% in 1973, and surpassed 25% in 1988. The mean total cholesterol level of the Japanese increased by 28 mg/dl (0.72 mmol/L) in the past 30 years and reached 204 mg/dl (5.28 mmol/L) in a survey in 1990. 5) Concerning dietary habits, total cholesterol was lower by a mean of 13 mg/dl (0.34 mmol/L), triglycerides lower by 40 mg/dl (0.45 mmol/L), and HDL-cholesterol higher by 5 mg/dl (0.13 mmol/L) in the group who ate 7 or more Japanese-style meals in the 9 meals during 3 days than in the group who ate 3 or less Japanese-style meals in the 9 meals. When serum lipids were compared among individuals living in cities (8 groups; 3,613 subjects; mean age 51 years), agricultural villages (13 groups; 5,364 subjects; mean age 51 years), and fishing villages (9 groups; 1,071 subjects; mean age 52 years). Total cholesterol was lower by a mean of 10 mg/dl (0.26 mmol/L) in fishing villages than in cities, and triglycerides lower by a mean of 15 mg/dl (0.17 mmol/L) in fishing villages than in cities and agricultural villages. HDL-cholesterol was 5 mg/dl (0.13 mmol/L) higher in agricultural villages and 3 mg/dl (0.08 mmol/L) higher in fishing villages than in cities. 6) The effects of dietary therapy or guidance were evaluated in 585 subjects (mean age, 53 years) in 12 papers. Total cholesterol was reduced by 20 mg/dl (0.52 mmol/L), triglycerides by a mean of 40 mg/dl (0.45 mmol/L), and HDL-cholesterol was increased by 5 mg/dl (0.13 mmol/L) by restriction of fat intake or restriction of the intake of saturated fat and dietary cholesterol. The results of these meta-analyses are considered to indicate the extent to which abnormalities of serum lipids are caused by a distorted life-style and the extent to which they are improved by correction of the life-style and exercise or dietary therapy. Correction of the life-style as a non-drug therapy may clearly improve hyperlipidemias or hypo-HDL-cholesterolemia so that this approach should be aggressively employed as part of the prevention and treatment for hyperlipidemias.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / blood
  • Arteriosclerosis / blood
  • Arteriosclerosis / etiology
  • Arteriosclerosis / prevention & control
  • Diet
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Style*
  • Lipids / blood*
  • Lipoproteins / blood*
  • Male
  • Nutritional Status
  • Smoking / blood


  • Lipids
  • Lipoproteins