Cholesterol levels have declined sharply in wealthy Western countries but are on the rise in low- and middle-income countries, especially in Asia, according to a new study published in Nature.
The research team consisted of hundreds of researchers from around the world and included data gathered from more than 102 million people in 200 countries from 1980-2018.
Researchers found total and non-high-density lipoprotein (non-HDL) cholesterol levels fell in high-income countries, especially those in Northwest Europe, North America, and Australasia. However, cholesterol levels rose in low- and middle-income countries, particularly those in East and Southeast Asia.
In 1980, Belgium, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and Malta had some of the highest levels of non-HDL cholesterol in the world. But by 2018, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Tokelau, were at the top of the list. In addition, China had one of the biggest rates of increase in non-HDL cholesterol in that time period.
Imperial College London public health professor and lead author Majid Ezzati, PhD, attributed the change to the use of statins in Western countries, which aren't as widely available in low- and middle-income countries.
"For the first time, the highest levels of non-HDL cholesterol are outside of the Western world," Ezzati stated in a press statement. "This suggests we now need to set into place throughout the world pricing and regulatory policies that shift diets from saturated to non-saturated fats, and to prepare health systems to treat those in need with effective medicines."