The small, dense LDL phenotype and the risk of coronary heart disease: epidemiology, patho-physiology and therapeutic aspects.

Department of Food Sciences and Nutrition, Laval University, Ste-Foy, Québec, Canada.
Diabetes & Metabolism (Impact Factor: 2.85). 10/1999; 25(3):199-211.
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT More than decade ago, several cross-sectional studies have reported differences in LDL particle size, density and composition between coronary heart disease (CHD) patients and healthy controls. Three recent prospective, nested case-control studies have since confirmed that the presence of small, dense LDL particles was associated with more than a three-fold increase in the risk of CHD. The small, dense LDL phenotype rarely occurs as an isolated disorder. It is most frequently accompanied by hypertriglyceridemia, reduced HDL cholesterol levels, abdominal obesity, insulin resistance and by a series of other metabolic alterations predictive of an impaired endothelial function and increased susceptibility to thrombosis. Whether or not the small, dense LDL phenotype should be considered an independent CHD risk factor remains to be clearly established. The cluster of metabolic abnormalities associated with small, dense LDL particles has been referred to as the insulin resistance-dyslipidemic phenotype of abdominal obesity. Results from the Québec Cardiovascular Study have indicated that individuals displaying three of the numerous features of insulin resistance (elevated plasma insulin and apolipoprotein B concentrations and small, dense LDL particles) showed a remarkable increase in CHD risk. Our data suggest that the increased risk of CHD associated with having small, dense LDL particles may be modulated to a significant extent by the presence/absence of insulin resistance, abdominal obesity and increased LDL particle concentration. We suggest that the complex interactions among the metabolic alterations of the insulin resistance syndrome should be considered when evaluating the risk of CHD associated with the small, dense LDL phenotype. From a therapeutic standpoint, the treatment of this condition should not only aim at reducing plasma triglyceride levels, but also at improving all features of the insulin resistance syndrome, for which body weight loss and mobilization of abdominal fat appear as key elements. Finally, interventions leading to reduction in fasting triglyceride levels will increase LDL particle size and contribute to reduce CHD risk, particularly if plasma apolipoprotein B concentration (as a surrogate of the number of atherogenic particles) is also reduced.