The holiday season may confer an unwanted gift: higher cholesterol.
Danish researchers studied 25,764 people in Copenhagen whose average age was 59. All had blood drawn regularly to test lipid levels. None were on cholesterol-lowering medicines.
Average total cholesterol in the group over the whole year was 205, just over the recommended guideline of 200. Average LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, was 116, just above the 100 level considered healthy.
But over three successive years in the first week of January, the average cholesterol was 240 and the average LDL was 143, both well into the unhealthy range. In June, the average cholesterol was 197 and the average LDL was 108. Nearly twice as many people had unhealthy lipid levels in January as in June.
The study, in the journal Atherosclerosis, controlled for sex, age, body mass index, diabetes, smoking, alcohol consumption and other factors.
The senior author, Dr. Anne Langsted of the Herlev and Gentofte Hospital in Denmark, said that lack of exercise and indulgence in high-fat food at that time of year may be to blame. But, she said, “A steady high cholesterol is what’s dangerous. We can’t say for sure, but the peaks at Christmas may not be so important if you have a good level the rest of the year.”