The coronary artery calcium score is linked to plasma cholesterol synthesis and absorption markers: Brazilian Longitudinal Study of Adult Health

Biosci Rep. 2020 Jul 31;40(7):BSR20201094. doi: 10.1042/BSR20201094.


It is controversial whether atherosclerosis is linked to increased intestinal cholesterol absorption or synthesis in humans. The aim of the present study was to relate atherosclerosis to the measurements of plasma markers of cholesterol synthesis (desmosterol, lathosterol) and absorption (campesterol, sitosterol). In healthy male (n=344), non-obese, non-diabetics, belonging to the city of São Paulo branch of the Brazilian Longitudinal Study of Adult Health (ELSA-Brasil), we measured in plasma these non-cholesterol sterol markers, together with their anthropometric, dietary parameters, traditional atherosclerotic risk factors, and blood chemistry, coronary arterial calcium score (CAC), and ultrasonographically measured common carotid artery intima-media thickness (CCA-IMT). Cases with CAC>zero had the following parameters higher than cases with CAC = zero: age, waist circumference (WC), plasma total cholesterol (TC), low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL-C), and non-high density lipoprotein-cholesterol (non HDL-C). Plasma desmosterol and campesterol, duly corrected for TC, age, body mass index (BMI), waist circumference (WC), hypertension, smoking, and the homeostasis model assessment-insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) correlated with CAC, but not with CCA-IMT. The latter related to increased age, BMI, waist circumference (WC), and systolic blood pressure (SBP). Plasma HDL-C concentrations did not define CAC or CCA-IMT degrees, although in relation to the lower tertile of HDL-C in plasma the higher tertile of HDL-C had lower HOMA-IR and concentration of a cholesterol synthesis marker (desmosterol). Present work indicated that increased cholesterol synthesis and absorption represent primary causes of CAD, but not of the common carotid artery atherosclerosis.

Keywords: campesterol; carotid artery intima-media thickness; cholesterol; coronary artery calcium; desmosterol.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Atherosclerosis / blood
  • Atherosclerosis / diagnosis*
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Body Mass Index
  • Brazil
  • Calcium / analysis*
  • Carotid Artery, Common / diagnostic imaging
  • Carotid Intima-Media Thickness
  • Cholesterol / analogs & derivatives
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Cholesterol / metabolism
  • Cholesterol, HDL / blood
  • Cholesterol, LDL / blood
  • Coronary Vessels / chemistry*
  • Coronary Vessels / diagnostic imaging
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Desmosterol / blood
  • Desmosterol / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Absorption
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Phytosterols / blood
  • Phytosterols / metabolism
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sitosterols / blood
  • Sitosterols / metabolism
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Ultrasonography


  • Biomarkers
  • Cholesterol, HDL
  • Cholesterol, LDL
  • Phytosterols
  • Sitosterols
  • Desmosterol
  • campesterol
  • gamma-sitosterol
  • lathosterol
  • Cholesterol
  • Calcium