Implications of the obesity epidemic for lipid-lowering therapy: non-HDL cholesterol should replace LDL cholesterol as the primary therapeutic target

Vasc Health Risk Manag. 2008;4(1):143-56. doi: 10.2147/vhrm.2008.04.01.143.


Obesity, metabolic syndrome and diabetes are conditions with increasing prevalence around the world. Cardiovascular risk in diabetics is often so high as to overlap with event rates observed in those with established coronary disease and this has lead to diabetes being classified as a coronary risk equivalent. However, despite the elevated risk of cardiovascular events associated with diabetes and the metabolic syndrome, these patients often have normal low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol despite frequent increases in apolipoprotein B, triglycerides and nonhigh density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. In contrast to LDL cholesterol, non-HDL cholesterol represents cardiovascular risk across all patient populations but is currently only recommended as a secondary target of therapy by the ATP III report for patients with hypertriglyceridemia. This article provides an overview of the studies that shown non-HDL cholesterol to be superior to LDL cholesterol in predicting cardiovascular events and presents the case for non-HDL cholesterol being the more appropriate primary target of therapy in the context of the obesity pandemic. Adopting non-HDL cholesterol as the primary therapeutic target for all patients will conceivably lead to an appropriate intensification of therapy for high risk patients with low LDL cholesterol.

Keywords: LDL cholesterol; coronary artery disease; diabetes; metabolic syndrome; non-HDL cholesterol; obesity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anticholesteremic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / metabolism
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Cholesterol, HDL / drug effects*
  • Cholesterol, LDL / drug effects*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Metabolic Syndrome / complications*
  • Metabolic Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Metabolic Syndrome / metabolism
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Risk Assessment


  • Anticholesteremic Agents
  • Cholesterol, HDL
  • Cholesterol, LDL