The liver is the major regulator of the plasma low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) concentration because it is not only the site of formation of very low density lipoproteins (VLDL), the precursors of most LDL in the circulation, but it is also the organ where the bulk of receptor-mediated clearance of LDL takes place. The liver also initially clears all the cholesterol that is absorbed from the small intestine. The absorption of excess cholesterol can potentially increase the amount of cholesterol stored in the liver. This, in turn, can result in increased VLDL secretion, and hence LDL formation, and also downregulation of hepatic LDL receptor activity. Such events will potentially increase plasma LDL-C levels. The converse situation occurs when cholesterol absorption is inhibited. Cholesterol enters the lumen of the small intestine principally from bile and diet. The major steps involved in the absorption process have been characterized. On average, about half of all cholesterol entering the intestine is absorbed, but the fractional absorption rate varies greatly among individuals. While the basis for this variability is not understood, it may partly explain why some patients respond poorly or not at all to statins and other classes of lipid-lowering drugs. There are few data relating to racial differences in cholesterol absorption. One study reported a significantly higher rate in African Americans compared with non-African Americans. Multiple lipid-lowering drugs that target pathways involving the absorption, synthesis, transport, storage, catabolism, and excretion of cholesterol are available. Ezetimibe selectively blocks cholesterol absorption and lowers plasma LDL-C levels by an average of 18%. When ezetimibe is coadministered with lower doses of statins, there is an additive reduction in LDL-C level, which equals the reduction achieved with maximal doses of statins alone. Dual inhibition of cholesterol synthesis and absorption is an effective new strategy for treating hypercholesterolemia.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine