Dyslipidemia and inflammation: an evolutionary conserved mechanism

Clin Nutr. 2005 Feb;24(1):16-31. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2004.08.004.


Inflammation leads to changes in lipid metabolism aimed at decreasing the toxicity of a variety of harmful agents and tissue repair by redistributing nutrients to cells involved in host defence. Acute phase response, mediated by cytokines, preserves the host from acute injury. When this inflammation becomes chronic, it might lead to chronic disorders as atherosclerosis and the metabolic syndrome. The activation of the inflammatory cascade will induce a decrease in HDL-cholesterol (HDL-C), with impairment in reverse cholesterol transport, and parallel changes in apolipoproteins, enzymes, anti-oxidant capacity and ATP binding cassette A1-dependent efflux. This decrease in HDL-C and phospholipids could stimulate compensatory changes, as synthesis and accumulation of phospholipid-rich VLDL which binds bacterial products and other toxic substances, resulting in hypertriglyceridemia. The final consequence is an increased accumulation of cholesterol in cells. When the compensatory response (inflammation) is not able to repair injury, it turns into a harmful reaction, and the lipid changes will become chronic, either by repeated or overwhelming stimulus, enhancing the formation of atherosclerotic lesions. Thus, the classical lipid changes associated with the metabolic syndrome (increased triglycerides and decreased HDL-C) may be envisioned as a highly conserved evolutionary response aimed at tissue repair. Under this assumption, the problem is not the response but the persistence of the stimulus.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute-Phase Reaction
  • Cholesterol / metabolism
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis
  • Cytokines / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Hyperlipidemias / metabolism
  • Hyperlipidemias / physiopathology*
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Inflammation / physiopathology*


  • Cytokines
  • Cholesterol