Good' Cholesterol Levels Reduced with High Air Pollution Exposure

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

HDL cholesterol is often referred to as “good” cholesterol. This is because it helps to remove low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, or “bad” cholesterol, from the arteries.

Accumulation of LDL can lead to atherosclerosis, a hardening or narrowing of the arteries that can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.

ishonest No.111 - Purge Impurities

No.111 - Purge Impurities

The air pollution exposure of each participant was estimated using information from cohort-focused monitoring campaigns, which disclosed the city in which each subject lived, when they lived there, and the air pollution levels in each city at that time.

The researchers also assessed the overall levels of HDL cholesterol in each participant, as well as the number of HDL particles. Recent studies have suggested that the HDL particle number may be a more accurate indicator of how HDL benefits the heart, compared with the cholesterol content of HDL particles.

Higher black carbon exposure linked to lower HDL cholesterol

Bell and team found that individuals with higher exposure to particulate matter (PM) – the mixture of solid and liquid particles found in the air – over an average of 3 months had a lower HDL particle number, compared with those with lower PM exposure.

Over a 1-year period, individuals with higher exposure to black carbon – a component of PM that is primarily emitted from motor vehicles – had significantly lower levels of HDL cholesterol, compared with those who had lower black carbon exposure.

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Although both men and women experienced reductions in HDL cholesterol as a result of higher exposure to air pollution, the effect was stronger for women, the team notes.

According to Bell, the lower HDL levels associated with greater air pollution exposure may increase the later risk of cardiovascular disease.

While further research is needed to gain a better understanding of how air pollution affects heart health, the researchers believe that their study has provided some insight.

“[…] our study helps strengthen the biological plausibility of the link between traffic-related air pollution and cardiovascular disease. We’re slowly beginning to understand some of the biology of how that link works.”

Griffith Bell, Ph.D.

Learn how air pollution may harm health by causing bacterial changes in the respiratory tract.

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