AHA logoHDL or good cholesterol for long is believed to carry cholesterol out of the arteries with high levels of it being associated with a decreased heart disease risk. However a small study by experts at the University Hospital Zurich and the Medical School of Hannover in Germany and Switzerland demonstrates that good cholesterol may not be as protective in individuals with type 2 diabetes.

HDL is known to safeguard the blood vessels by lowering the production of damaging chemicals. By increasing the vessels’ ability to expand, it also appears to repair damage to the vessel lining. The European analysis however suggests that men with type 2 diabetes may in fact be lacking this distinct protective capacity. The preliminary results nevertheless also hint at the extended-release niacin which could aid HDL in working better in these patients.

As part of the study, the scientists pitted the vessel-protecting action of HDL from 10 healthy adults against 33 patients who had type 2 diabetes as well as a metabolic syndrome. The condition is known to comprise of patients who show low HDL levels namely under 40 mg/dL in men and 50mg/dL in women. It was observed that the diabetics were taking cholesterol-lowering medication.

On conducting laboratory tests, the investigators found that the protective capabilities of HDL on blood vessels were ‘substantially impaired’ in those from the diabetic patients. Next, the diabetes patients were randomized for the administration of either a placebo or extended-release niacin that is 1500 milligrams/day. While lowering other blood fats, niacin is considered to be a medication that has the ability to raise HDL cholesterol.

The investigators noted after three months that patients who had received the extended-release niacin seemed to show augment levels of HDL. They also exhibited noteworthy improved protective functions of HDL in laboratory testing. Improved vascular function was also observed in these individuals.

The team claims that more analyses are however required to ascertain the use of niacin in diabetic patients. The study’s sample size and other factors that can’t be excluded, more could further be limiting present results.

The research is reported in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.