According to a twin study reveals that cholesterol levels are controlled by both genes and dietary factors. People with high blood cholesterol are often advised to go on a low-fat diet - or to take cholesterol-lowering drugs. It's known that reducing fat intake can reduce cholesterol levels. But there is also a genetic condition called familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH) which leads to high cholesterol. People with FH cannot usually get their cholesterol down by diet alone - they usually need medication too. Left untreated, FH often leads to early development of heart disease.
But there are probably many other genes involved in the way the body handles cholesterol. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh in the US have just completed the first-ever study of twins to show something of the interplay between diet and genetics in cholesterol levels.
They studied 200 pairs of same-sex twins, some identical and some non-identical. The participants kept a food diary at the same time got their cholesterol measured. In identical twins, who have the same genetic make-up, the differences in dietary intake accounted for differences in cholesterol levels. But their cholesterol levels were more similar than among pairs of non-identical twins, who share only some of the same genes. The study reveals that both genes and diet are important in determining cholesterol level. Those whose genes work against them have the most to gain from a low-fat diet when it comes to controlling cholesterol.