Background: The breakdown of the blood-brain-barrier vascular endothelium is critical for entry of immune cells into the MS brain. Vascular co-morbidities are associated with increased risk of progression. Dyslipidemia, elevated LDL and reduced HDL may increase progression by activating inflammatory processes at the vascular endothelium.
Objective: To assess the associations of serum lipid profile variables (triglycerides, high and low density lipoproteins (HDL, LDL) and total cholesterol) with disability and MRI measures in multiple sclerosis (MS).
Methods: This study included 492 MS patients (age: 47.1 ± 10.8 years; disease duration: 12.8 ± 10.1 years) with baseline and follow-up Expanded Disability Status Score (EDSS) assessments after a mean period of 2.2 ± 1.0 years. The associations of baseline lipid profile variables with disability changes were assessed. Quantitative MRI findings at baseline were available for 210 patients.
Results: EDSS worsening was associated with higher baseline LDL (p = 0.006) and total cholesterol (p = 0.001, 0.008) levels, with trends for higher triglyceride (p = 0.025); HDL was not associated. A similar pattern was found for MSSS worsening. Higher HDL levels (p < 0.001) were associated with lower contrast-enhancing lesion volume. Higher total cholesterol was associated with a trend for lower brain parenchymal fraction (p = 0.033).
Conclusions: Serum lipid profile has modest effects on disease progression in MS. Worsening disability is associated with higher levels of LDL, total cholesterol and triglycerides. Higher HDL is associated with lower levels of acute inflammatory activity.