Comparison of Conventional Lipoprotein Tests and Apolipoproteins in the Prediction of Cardiovascular Disease

Circulation. 2019 Aug 13;140(7):542-552. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.119.041149. Epub 2019 Jun 20.


Background: Total cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) measurements are central to cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk assessment, but there is continuing debate around the utility of other lipids for risk prediction.

Methods: Participants from UK Biobank without baseline CVD and not taking statins, with relevant lipid measurements (n=346 686), were included in the primary analysis. An incident fatal or nonfatal CVD event occurred in 6216 participants (1656 fatal) over a median of 8.9 years. Associations of nonfasting lipid measurements (total cholesterol, HDL-C, non-HDL-C, direct and calculated low-density lipoprotein cholesterol [LDL-C], and apolipoproteins [Apo] A1 and B) with CVD were compared using Cox models adjusting for classical risk factors, and predictive utility was determined by the C-index and net reclassification index. Prediction was also tested in 68 649 participants taking a statin with or without baseline CVD (3515 CVD events).

Results: ApoB, LDL-C, and non-HDL-C were highly correlated (r>0.90), while HDL-C was strongly correlated with ApoA1 (r=0.92). After adjustment for classical risk factors, 1 SD increase in ApoB, direct LDL-C, and non-HDL-C had similar associations with composite fatal/nonfatal CVD events (hazard ratio, 1.23, 1.20, 1.21, respectively). Associations for 1 SD increase in HDL-C and ApoA1 were also similar (hazard ratios, 0.81 [both]). Adding either total cholesterol and HDL-C, or ApoB and ApoA, to a CVD risk prediction model (C-index, 0.7378) yielded similar improvement in discrimination (C-index change, 0.0084; 95% CI, 0.0065, 0.0104, and 0.0089; 95% CI, 0.0069, 0.0109, respectively). Once total and HDL-C were in the model, no further substantive improvement was achieved with the addition of ApoB (C-index change, 0.0004; 95% CI, 0.0000, 0.0008) or any measure of LDL-C. Results for predictive utility were similar for a fatal CVD outcome, and in a discordance analysis. In participants taking a statin, classical risk factors (C-index, 0.7118) were improved by non-HDL-C (C-index change, 0.0030; 95% CI, 0.0012, 0.0048) or ApoB (C-index change, 0.0030; 95% CI, 0.0011, 0.0048). However, adding ApoB or LDL-C to a model already containing non-HDL-C did not further improve discrimination.

Conclusions: Measurement of total cholesterol and HDL-C in the nonfasted state is sufficient to capture the lipid-associated risk in CVD prediction, with no meaningful improvement from addition of apolipoproteins, direct or calculated LDL-C.

Keywords: apolipoprotein A-1; apolipoprotein B; cardiovascular diseases; cholesterol, HDL; cholesterol, LDL.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Apolipoproteins / blood*
  • Biological Specimen Banks
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / blood*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Cholesterol, HDL / blood*
  • Cholesterol, LDL / blood*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hematologic Tests / methods
  • Hematologic Tests / standards*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology


  • Apolipoproteins
  • Cholesterol, HDL
  • Cholesterol, LDL