Association of Genetically Predicted Lipid Levels With the Extent of Coronary Atherosclerosis in Icelandic Adults

JAMA Cardiol. 2020 Jan 1;5(1):13-20. doi: 10.1001/jamacardio.2019.2946.


Importance: Genetic studies have evaluated the influence of blood lipid levels on the risk of coronary artery disease (CAD), but less is known about how they are associated with the extent of coronary atherosclerosis.

Objective: To estimate the contributions of genetically predicted blood lipid levels on the extent of coronary atherosclerosis.

Design, setting, and participants: This genetic study included Icelandic adults who had undergone coronary angiography or assessment of coronary artery calcium using cardiac computed tomography. The study incorporates data collected from January 1987 to December 2017 in Iceland in the Swedish Coronary Angiography and Angioplasty Registry and 2 registries of individuals who had undergone percutaneous coronary interventions and coronary artery bypass grafting. For each participant, genetic scores were calculated for levels of non-high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (non-HDL-C), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), and triglycerides, based on reported effect sizes of 345 independent, lipid-associated variants. The genetic scores' predictive ability for lipid levels was assessed in more than 87 000 Icelandic adults. A mendelian randomization approach was used to estimate the contribution of each lipid trait.

Exposures: Genetic scores for levels of non-HDL-C, LDL-C, HDL-C, and triglycerides.

Main outcomes and measures: The extent of angiographic CAD and coronary artery calcium quantity.

Results: A total of 12 460 adults (mean [SD] age, 65.1 [10.7] years; 8383 men [67.3%]) underwent coronary angiography, and 4837 had coronary artery calcium assessed by computed tomography. A genetically predicted increase in non-HDL-C levels by 1 SD (38 mg/dL [to convert to millimoles per liter, multiply by 0.0259]) was associated with greater odds of obstructive CAD (odds ratio [OR], 1.83 [95% CI, 1.63-2.07]; P = 2.8 × 10-23). Among patients with obstructive CAD, there were significant associations with multivessel disease (OR, 1.26 [95% CI, 1.11-1.44]; P = 4.1 × 10-4) and 3-vessel disease (OR, 1.47 [95% CI, 1.26-1.72]; P = 9.2 × 10-7). There were also significant associations with the presence of coronary artery calcium (OR, 2.04 [95% CI, 1.70-2.44]; P = 5.3 × 10-15) and loge-transformed coronary artery calcium (effect, 0.70 [95% CI, 0.53-0.87]; P = 1.0 × 10-15). Genetically predicted levels of non-HDL-C remained associated with obstructive CAD and coronary artery calcium extent even after accounting for the association with LDL-C. Genetically predicted levels of HDL-C and triglycerides were associated individually with the extent of coronary atherosclerosis, but not after accounting for the association with non-HDL cholesterol.

Conclusions and relevance: In this study, genetically predicted levels of non-HDL-C were associated with the extent of coronary atherosclerosis as estimated by 2 different methods. The association was stronger than for genetically predicted levels of LDL-C. These findings further support the notion that non-HDL-C may be a better marker of the overall burden of atherogenic lipoproteins than LDL-C.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Causality
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Cholesterol, HDL / blood
  • Cholesterol, LDL / blood
  • Coronary Angiography
  • Coronary Artery Disease / epidemiology
  • Coronary Artery Disease / genetics
  • Coronary Artery Disease / physiopathology*
  • Coronary Artery Disease / therapy
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Hyperlipidemias / blood
  • Hyperlipidemias / epidemiology
  • Hyperlipidemias / genetics*
  • Iceland / epidemiology
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Mendelian Randomization Analysis
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardial Revascularization
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Triglycerides / blood
  • Vascular Calcification / epidemiology
  • Vascular Calcification / genetics
  • Vascular Calcification / physiopathology*


  • Cholesterol, HDL
  • Cholesterol, LDL
  • Triglycerides
  • Cholesterol