Background: Although elevated high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) is considered protective against atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, no causal relationship has been demonstrated. HDL-C comprises a group of different subfractions that might have different effects on atherosclerosis. Our objective was to investigate the association between HDL-C subfractions with the coronary artery calcium (CAC) score.
Methods: We included 3,674 (49.8 ± 8.3 years, 54% women) participants from the ELSA-Brasil study who had no prior history of CVD and were not currently using lipid-lowering medications. We measured the fasting lipoprotein cholesterol fractions (in mmol/l) by a zonal ultracentrifugation method (VAP). We analyzed the independent predictive values of total HDL-C, HDL2-C, and HDL3-C subfractions and in the HDL2-C/HDL3-C ratio using linear regression to predict Ln(CAC+1) and logistic regression to predict the presence of CAC.
Results: Overall 912 (24.8%) of the participants had CAC>0, and 294 (7.7%) had CAC>100. The mean total HDL-C, HDL2-C, and HDL3-C were: 1.42 ± 0.37, 0.38 ± 0.17 and 1.03 ± 0.21 mmol/l, respectively. Individuals with CAC>0 had lower levels of total HDL-C as well as of each subfraction (p < 0.001). When adjusted for age, gender, smoking, hypertension, alcohol use, physical activity, and LDL-C, we observed an inverse association between HDL-C and its subfractions and CAC (p < 0.05). However, by adding triglycerides in the adjustment, neither total HDL-C nor its subfractions remained independently associated with the presence or extent of CAC.
Conclusion: In this cross-sectional analysis, neither the total HDL-C nor its subfractions (HDL2-C and HDL3-C, as well as HDL2-C/HDL3-C ratio) measured by VAP are independently associated with the presence or extent of coronary calcification.
Keywords: CAC; Coronary calcification; HDL-C; Subclasses; Subclinical atherosclerosis; Subfractions.
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