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Cholesterol Transport Linked to Diabetes Risk

A group of Dutch researchers has found that the prevalence of type 2 diabetes is lower among those with familial hypercholesterolemia than among their unaffected relatives.

Statins, the researchers say, are a common lipid-lowering drug, but they also increase T2D risk in some people, suggesting a link between cholesterol transport and T2D. Meanwhile, cholesterol uptake is impaired in people with familial hypercholesterolemia, and so the researchers sought to examine whether there was a link between familial hypercholesterolemia and T2D.

As Kees Hovingh from the Academic Medical Centre in Amsterdam and his colleagues report in the Journal of the American Medical Association, they performed a cross-sectional study of all people within the national Dutch screening program who underwent DNA testing for familial hypercholesterolemia between 1994 and 2014.

As they report in JAMA, people with familial hypercholesterolemia had a 51 percent lower T2D risk than their relatives, though NPR notes that the diabetes risk for both groups was rather low to begin with.

The risk also varied based on genetic mutation, the researchers add. Diabetes prevalence was lower among APOB and LDLR mutation carriers.

"They're speculating that this LDL receptor may be important in some way in determining the risk of diabetes in a statin," the University of Glasgow's David Preiss, who wrote an editorial accompanying the JAMA study, tells NPR. "The data they show is quite strongly supportive of that."