Researchers identify new type of cholesterol that may impact heart health of individuals with type 2 diabetes

Obesity is one of the main contributors to the growing number of Americans who have type 2 diabetes. Similarly, excess weight and diabetes have been associated with an increased risk of developing heart disease.

Now, a recent study published in the journal Diabetes has indicated one reason for this connection between type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

While high- and low-density lipoprotein cholesterols are considered good and bad, respectively, researchers have identified a new type of cholesterol that may be even more harmful that the previously established unhealthy variety.

The investigators referred to their discovery as "ultra-bad" cholesterol, although its actual name is MGmin-LDL. They explained that this type of cholesterol is commonly found in individuals who have type 2 diabetes and the elderly.

The study's results showed that MGmin-LDL is created when normal LDL becomes stickier and attaches to artery walls more easily after it acquires sugar molecules. Since people with diabetes have high blood sugar levels, this may contribute to their odds of possessing the ultra-bad cholesterol.

Although MGmin-LDL may increase a person's risk of developing coronary heart disease, he or she can take diabetes medications that help lower blood sugar levels, which in turn may limit the formation of the newly discovered cholesterol, the researchers said.

"This study shows how the make-up and the shape of a type of LDL cholesterol found in diabetics could make it more harmful than other types of LDL. The findings provide one possible explanation for the increased risk of coronary heart disease in people with diabetes," said research advisor Shannon Amoils.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that individuals receive a cholesterol screening at least once every five years or more often if they already know that their levels are high.

The organization explains that ideal LDL cholesterol measurements are typically less than 100 mg/dL, while those for HDL should be greater than 60 mg/dL in order to be considered healthy.

Simple ways in which individuals with type 2 diabetes can lower their cholesterol include abstaining from smoking, engaging in regular exercise and increasing their consumption of monounsaturated fats such as canola oil and olive oil, the ADA states.