History of Lipid Discovery

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History of Cholesterol Discovery

History of cholesterol discovery is amazing. The lipid science is progressing on a daily basis and help better manage your health.

Amazing history of lipid discovery

The history of lipid and cardiac care is fascinating and dates back to thousands of years. The present information has developed over decades.

Here we try providing a comprehensive history of cholesterol, heart and vascular disease.

The first heart diagram

The first drawing of heart was from the Paleolithic era, a cave in El Pindal, Spain.

Blood circulation

For many years, people thought the liver be the center of the circulation.

Andreas Vesalius in 1555 refuted this. The Italian Andrea Cesalpino was the first used the term “blood circulation”. Riva di Trento first described the presence of two main coronary arteries in 1559. In 1628, a physician William Harvey noted the heart pumped blood around the body.

The Cholesterol timeline

In 1758, French Doctor Francois Poulletier de La Salle isolated solid cholesterol from gallstones. In 1815, French chemist Michel Eugene Chevreul isolated and purified sterol from gallstones. And he named it as “cholesterol.”

In 1838, Louis Rene Lecanu identified the presence of cholesterol in human blood.

In 1927, Wieland & Adolf Windaus got Nobel Prize for cholesterol & bile acids structure. In 1932, Adolf Windaus clarified the structure of cholesterol.

In 1964, Dr. Konrad Bloch received the Nobel Prize for explaining the cholesterol synthesis. He showed HMG-CoA reductase was the enzyme in this complex synthesis. The cholesterol serves as a precursor for bile acids, sex hormones, and cortisol. Konrad Bloch and Feodor Lynen awarded Nobel Prize for cholesterol and fatty acids metabolism.

Japan physicians warned low cholesterol has a link with stroke. Stroke is the number one cause of death in Japan.

When Japanese people increased the fat intake, their incidence of deadly strokes declined.

Atherosclerosis timeline

In 1852, plague 1st noted in the blood vessels and described it as atherosclerosis in 1854.

In 1852, Irish Physician Richard Quain observed fatty material deposition in the blood vessels. He attributed this to local modification of nutrition. He linked the fatty heart to lacking energy, improper circulation, and distress breathing. Additionally, chest oppression or uneasiness, coma, syncope, angina pectoris, and sudden death.

In 1854, Dr. Rudolf Virchow described atherosclerosis as a disease. He considered arterial clog is due to excess cholesterol deposition.

The Lipoprotein timeline

You can't blame firemen for their presence in the fire accident spot.

In 1951, Doctors David Barr, Edward Russ & Howard Eder analyzed heart patients heart. They found heart patients have elevated LDL and decreased HDL levels.

In a 10-year study, Gofman and colleagues studied ischemic heart disease patients. They found lower HDL and higher levels of LDL, IDL, and small VLDL.

In 1975-1980, studies found elevated LDL-C & decreased HDL-C are independent heart disease predictors.

In 1985, Michael Brown & Joseph Goldstein awarded Nobel Prize for LDL pathway discovery. Later, Brown & Goldstein noted an enzyme involved in the regulation of cholesterol generation.

Familial hyperlipidemia

In 1973, Joe Goldstein was one of the founders of modern cholesterol research. He genetically classified the types of cholesterol-carrying lipoproteins in the blood.  Joseph Goldstein & Arno Motulsky found familial hyperlipidemia has linked to premature heart disease.

Michael Brown & Joseph Goldstein found genetics behind the inability to remove LDL.

Michael Brown & Joseph Goldstein showed familial hypercholesterolemia patients had defects in LDL receptors. This defect leads to premature death due to atherosclerosis.

Lipid Hypothesis

Rabbits are herbivores; they only eat grass, fruits, and vegetables. They never eat cholesterol rich foods. Thus, their digestive system not practiced to handle cholesterol.

In 1913, Nikolai Anitschkow established a link between cholesterol and atherosclerosis. They discovered this link after feeding rabbits with purified cholesterol. Leading scientist never consider any relevance between rabbit and human.

In 1937, biochemists David Rittenberg & Rudolph Schoenheimer studied dietary cholesterol effects. They demonstrated dietary cholesterol had negligible blood cholesterol effect.

In 1953, Ancel Keys convinced that dietary fat is the cause of heart disease. He published 7-country analysis, suggesting an association between fat and mortality from heart disease.

Latest research studies demystify and fallacies Ancel Keys Lipid hypothesis.

Critics pointed out Keys had data from 22 countries but selected only seven that fall in line with his view. These seven countries were Italy, Greece, Former Yugoslavia, Netherlands, Finland, USA, and Japan. Still, most people accepted key's diet-heart hypothesis.

In 1956, Yerushalmy and Hilleboe pointed out Ancel Key collected data from 22 countries. But, Ancel Key used only seven results supporting his hypothesis. Moreover, Ancel Key has missed in his studies other factors such as sugar consumption.

British diabetes expert John Yudkin suggested sucrose was an important risk than animal fat.

British diabetes expert John Yudkin consider sucrose was an important risk than animal fat. Keys and Yudkin had a spirited debate; unfortunately, Key won. In 1956, American Heart Association declared butter, eggs & beef increased coronary disease risk.

It’s our bad luck Dr. Ancle Key won John Yudkin; otherwise, today our health may be in better shape.

In 1963, Dr. Ancel Keys established a link between saturated fat and high cholesterol. In 1963, Doctors Sami Hashim & Theodore Van Itallie found cholestyramine lower cholesterol.

In 1964, physiologist John Yudkin noted a sucrose consumption most important association with heart disease.

Low-fat, low-carb timeline

In 1863, William Banting published "Letter on Corpulence." Banting lost 5 pounds on a high fat, carbohydrate-restricted diet.

In 1961, Pete Ahrens & Margaret Albrink reported a link between high triglycerides & heart disease.

Pete Ahrens & Margaret Albrink noted low fat; high carbohydrate diet raised triglycerides. Thus, carbohydrates can increase the risk towards heart disease.

In 1970, Margaret Albrink, Peter Kuo, Lars Carlson & Joseph Goldstein reported high triglycerides were common in heart patients than cholesterol. They confirmed the majority of people with heart disease had "Carbohydrate Induced Lipemia."

A single wrong FDA’s decision affected our health. FDA provides “Generally Regarded as Safe” status to Trans fats (hydrogenated vegetable oils).

In 1976, FDA gave GRAS status to hydrogenated soybean oil (manmade Tran’s fats). Lipid biochemist Mary Enig, Ph.D., warned the government about the dangers of Tran’s fat. It interferes with insulin receptors on cell membranes and increases the diabetes risk. In 2005, with American Dietary Guidelines weakly cautioned to limit trans & saturated fats. They even calling them as Bad Fats.

In 1977, U.S. Senate led by George McGovern published the Dietary Goals “EAT LESS FAT, SATURATED, AND CHOLESTEROL.”

Finally, Key’s unproven hypothesis became the cornerstone of U.S. nutrition policies and education.

In 1977, Dr. George Mann described the diet-heart hypothesis as

"The greatest scam in the history of medicine” in the New England Journal of Medicine.

In 1978, High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) entered the sweetener market.

HFCS create a metabolic traffic jam in the liver. Results in both greater insulin production and insulin resistance at the same time.

Cholesterol tests timeline

In 1934, a blood test for cholesterol developed.

In 1954, Dr. John Gofman found patients with heart disease had high small density LDL and reduced large HDL.

In 1955, Doctors Richard Havel, Howard Eder, and Carl Bragdon developed ultracentrifugation technique. They used it to isolate plasma lipoproteins.

Around 1959, John William Gofman researched on identification, quantification and clinical implications of lipoproteins. He identified three major classes of lipoproteins in serum; they are VLDL, LDL, and HDL. Kare Berg discovered lipoprotein (a) or Lp (a) in 1963. In May 2007, the Journal of Clinical-Lipidology named him the Father of Clinical Lipidology.

In 1965, Dr. Kaare found elevated levels of lipoprotein (a) associated with heart disease.

In 1967, Doctors Donald Fredrickson, Robert Levy, Robert Lees classified 5-types of lipoprotein disorders. They are:

  1. type I - elevated chylomicrons,
  2. type II - elevated LDL,
  3. type III - high intermediate density lipoproteins or IDL,
  4. type IV - Elevated VLDL,
  5. type V - elevated chylomicrons and VLDL.

In 1969, Dr. Meyer Burstein developed a technique to precipitate chylomicrons, VLDL, and LDL. This method can allow for the measurement of HDL cholesterol (HDL-C). Doctors William Friedewald, Robert Levy, and Donald Fredrickson developed the Friedewald formula. This approach calculates LDL cholesterol (LCL-C) based on fasting total cholesterol, HDL-C, and triglyceride.

Cholesterol treatment timeline

In 1955, Canadian Dr. Rudolf Altschul found high doses niacin would lower cholesterol levels. In 1975, Dr. Paul Canner and colleagues found niacin treatment reduces heart disease.

In 1976, Japanese biochemist Akira Endo isolated HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor called Compactin.  Akira Endo isolated HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor from the fungal strain Penicillium Citrinum. This inhibitor led to the first statin drug to reduce the level of cholesterol in the body.

In 1984, Lipid Research Clinics Coronary Primary Prevention Trial led by Dr. Robert Levy & colleagues found Cholestyramine reduces heart disease risk in high cholesterol men.

In 1987, Mevacor was the first cholesterol-lowering statin drug approved in record time.

Statin drugs reduce both cholesterol and Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). The heart muscles use the most CoQ10.

No surprise, the congestive heart failure incidents has more than doubled since 1990. Merck has a patent on combining CoQ10 with a statin, but they have been sitting on it for decades. In 1987, Doctors Al Alberts & Roy Vagelos gave the first HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor Lovastatin to the world market to control high cholesterol.

In 1997, Dr. Harry Davis and colleagues developed ezetimibe; an agent inhibits cholesterol absorption.

Inflammation is the number one risk factor for the plaque formation in the arteries.

In 2008, Dr. Paul Ridker & colleagues reported rosuvastatin lowered heart disease risk with normal LDL-C and high CRP in the JUPITER trial. A high level of CRP in the blood is a sign that there is an inflammatory process occurring in the body. 

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