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Chronobiol Int. 2001 May;18(3):541-57.

Influence of dietary intake and physical activity on annual rhythm of human blood cholesterol concentrations.

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III. Medical Department, Faculty of Medicine, University of Leipzig, Germany.


Seasonal variation in the plasma total cholesterol (TC) and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) have been repeatedly reported, with contradictory results regarding the pattern of seasonal variation of these parameters. Furthermore, it is still not well established whether the variation is due to changes in the nutrition or changes in physical activity depending on the season. The aim of this study was therefore to determine plasma TC and HDL-C in different groups of healthy participants: 19 vegetarians with a constant diet independent of the season, 14 athletes with almost constant physical activity over the year, and 114 controls in the age groups 20-26 years (mean age 24 + 1.5 years) and 40-48 years (mean age 44.3 + 2.1 years). Over 2 years, blood samples were collected every 2-3 months and were analyzed for plasma TC and HDL-C. At all visits, body mass index (BMI) and waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) were calculated, and nutrition and physical activity profiles were obtained. The seasonal model was calculated using object-oriented software for the analysis of longitudinal data in S (OSWALD); multiple regression analysis was used to determine the influence of age, gender, diet, and physical activity on seasonal changes of the lipid parameters. In all groups, we found an annual rhythm of the plasma TC and HDL-C concentrations, which can be mathematically described by a sine curve with a maximum in winter and a minimum in summer. This rhythm was independent of the age, gender, BMI, diet, or physical activity. The observed seasonal differences between the maximum and the minimum were about 5%-10% for TC and about 5%-8% for HDL-C concentration. These differences were greater than the determined circadian (TC 3.5%, HDL-C 4%) and day-to-day changes for TC and HDL-C (coefficient of variation <5% for both). In conclusion, annual rhythm of TC and HDL-C is not primarily induced by seasonal differences in dietary intake or physical activity. Therefore, the annual rhythm in cholesterol levels is most likely determined by endogenous factors or factors directly related to seasonal changes in the environment.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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