Non-HDL Cholesterol and Triglycerides: Implications for Coronary Atheroma Progression and Clinical Events

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Non–high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (non-HDLC) levels reflect the full burden of cholesterol transported in atherogenic lipoproteins. Genetic studies suggest a causal association between elevated triglycerides (TGs)-rich lipoproteins and atherosclerosis. We evaluated associations between achieved non-HDLC and TG levels on changes in coronary atheroma volume.

Approach and Results—

Data were analyzed from 9 clinical trials involving 4957 patients with coronary disease undergoing serial intravascular ultrasonography to assess changes in percent atheroma volume (ΔPAV) and were evaluated against on-treatment non-HDLC and TG levels. The effects of lower (<100 mg/dL) versus higher (≥100 mg/dL) achieved non-HDLC levels and lower (<200 mg/dL) versus higher (≥200 mg/dL) achieved TG levels were evaluated in populations with variable on-treatment low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDLC) 0) was associated with achieved TG levels >200 mg/dL, respectively. Lower on-treatment non-HDLC and TG levels associated with significant PAV regression compared with higher non-HDLC and TG levels across all levels of LDLC and C-reactive protein and irrespective of diabetic status (P<0.001 across all comparisons). ΔPAV were more strongly influenced by changes in non-HDLC (β=0.62; P<0.001) compared with changes in LDLC (β=0.51; P<0.001). Kaplan–Meier sensitivity analyses demonstrated significantly greater major adverse cardiovascular event rates in those with higher versus lower non-HDLC and TG levels, with an earlier separation of the non-HDLC compared with the LDLC curve.


Achieved non-HDLC levels seem more closely associated with coronary atheroma progression than LDLC. Plaque progression associates with achieved TGs, but only above levels of 200 mg/dL. These observations support a more prominent role for non-HDLC (and possibly TG) lowering in combating residual cardiovascular risk.

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