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Metabolism. 2008 Jan;57(1):77-83.

Relation of gemfibrozil treatment and high-density lipoprotein subpopulation profile with cardiovascular events in the Veterans Affairs High-Density Lipoprotein Intervention Trial.

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Lipid Metabolism Laboratory, Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, Boston, MA 02111, USA.


The significant cardiovascular disease (CVD) event reduction in the Veterans Affairs High-Density Lipoprotein Intervention Trial (VA-HIT) could not be fully explained by the 6% increase in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol with the fibrate gemfibrozil. We examined whether measurement of HDL subpopulations provided additional information relative to CVD risk reduction. The HDL subpopulations were characterized by 2-dimensional gel electrophoresis in subjects who were treated with gemfibrozil (n = 754) or placebo (n = 741). In this study, samples obtained at the 3-month visit were used; and data were analyzed prospectively using CVD events (coronary heart disease death, myocardial infarction, or stroke) during the 5.1 years of follow-up. Analyses in the gemfibrozil arm showed that subjects with recurrent CVD events had significantly higher prebeta-1 and had significantly lower alpha-1 and alpha-2 HDL levels than those without such events. Prebeta-1 level was a significant positive predictor; alpha-1 and alpha-2 levels were significant negative risk factors for future CVD events. alpha-2 level was superior to HDL cholesterol level in CVD-risk assessment after adjustment for established risk factors. Gemfibrozil treatment was associated with 3% to 6% decreases in the small, lipid-poor prebeta-1 HDL and in the large, lipid-rich alpha-1 and alpha-2 HDL and with increases in the small alpha-3 (3%) and prealpha-3 (16%) HDLs. Although the use of gemfibrozil has been associated with reduction in CVD events in VA-HIT, HDL subpopulation analysis indicates that gemfibrozil-mediated improvement in CVD risk might not be the result of its effects on HDL. It is quite possible that much of the cardiovascular benefits of gemfibrozil are due to a much wider spectrum of effects on metabolic processes that is not reflected by changes in blood lipids and HDL subpopulations.

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