Background. Use of genetic analysis may improve the predictive value of risk factors for disease. A high plasma level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is a strong negative risk factor for coronary heart disease (CHD). Cholesteryl ester transfer protein (CETP) deficiency causes increased levels of HDL cholesterol. However, recent studies suggest that CETP deficiency is a risk factor for CHD despite elevated HDL cholesterol levels. Methods. Plasma lipid levels, CHD prevalence, resting electrocardiograms, and common CETP gene mutations were analyzed cross-sectionally in a population of 19,044 male and 29,487 female Japanese subjects (ages 45-79 years). Results. High HDL cholesterol levels (serum HDL cholesterol ≤80 mg/dl, ≤95th percentile) were found in 6 and 5% of Japanese men and women, respectively. In the group with HDL cholesterol ≤80 mg/dl, common CETP gene mutations were identified in 23-24% of men and 31-49% of women. The prevalence of CHD in the group with high HDL cholesterol (≤80 mg/dl) was low among both men (1.0%) and women (1.3%). There was no difference in CHD prevalence between hyper- HDL-cholesterolemic subjects with and without CETP mutations. Conclusions. Subjects with very high HDL levels (HDL cholesterol ≤80 mg/dl) as well as mild-to-moderate HDL elevations (60-79 mg/dl) appear to be protected against CHD, whether or not they have CETP deficiency, a genetic cause of elevated HDL.
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