It has been accepted wisdom for many years that the more good cholesterol people have in their blood, the better. But the good cholesterol, also known as HDL, might not be as good as we think.

In any case, the results of a new study from the University of Copenhagen seriously contradict the assumption that high levels of HDL in the blood are only a good thing. The researchers have shown that people with extremely high levels of good cholesterol have a higher mortality rate than people with normal levels. For men with extremely high levels, the mortality rate was 106 per cent higher than for the normal group. For women with extremely high levels, the mortality rate was 68 per cent higher.


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“These results radically change the way we understand ‘good’ cholesterol. Doctors like myself have been used to congratulating patients who had a very high level of HDL in their blood. But we should no longer do so, as this study shows a dramatically higher mortality rate,” says Børge Nordestgaard, Professor at the Department of Clinical Medicine and one of the authors of the study.

The researchers analysed data for 116,000 subjects from the Copenhagen City Heart Study and the Copenhagen General Population Study, in combination with mortality data from the Danish Civil Registration System. They have followed the subjects for an average of 6 years, and based the study on just over 10,500 deaths.