About This Project
Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, LDL-C, is a cause of cardiovascular disease, CVD. However, recent evidence shows that it may not foretell CVD in everyone. An alternative measure called apolipoprotein B, ApoB, may be a better predictor.
We will analyse UK data to test our first hypothesis that ApoB is a viable predictor and our second hypothesis that links between LDL-C and ApoB are related to diet and lifestyle.
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What is the context of this research?
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the biggest killer in the world, with the World Health Organisation estimating that it takes the lives of 17.9 million people each year, representing 31% of all global deaths.
Since the 1960s cholesterol in the blood and specifically the cholesterol carried on board low-density lipoprotein particles, or ‘bad cholesterol’ (LDL-C) as it is often referred to, has been associated with CVD. As such, LDL-C is widely regarded as a principle risk factor. Previous efforts have aimed to reduce the incidence of CVD through the lowering of blood cholesterol and LDL-C using various methods. These strategies, whilst achieving differing levels of success, have failed to eliminate the disease, which still represents a burden on global health.
What is the significance of this project?
Doubt has been cast on the ability of LDL-C to predict CVD. This is due to the relationship between LDL-C and one of its components called apolipoprotein B100 (ApoB), which also acts as a CVD marker.
Those with similar, or ‘concordant’, levels of LDL-C and ApoB typically have a moderately low or moderately high risk of CVD. However, ~20% of individuals have ‘discordant’ levels of LDL-C and ApoB and often display unusual qualities.
Those with high LDL-C and low ApoB are generally regarded as ‘at risk’ due to their raised LDL-C. However, they have been shown to be at the lowest risk.
Conversely, and worryingly, those with low LDL-C and high ApoB are regarded by current guidelines as being at low CVD risk; however, evidence shows they are at the very highest risk.
What are the goals of the project?
Our study uses data from UK Biobank to determine levels of LDL-C and ApoB. We will split the data into groups and analyse them test our hypothesis that ApoB is a superior marker for the diagnosis of CVD.
Next, we will use dietary data to determine relationships between nutritional intake and levels of LDL discordance. This is a novel angle that has not previously been researched and which is in need of investigation due to the three-way link between dietary intake, altered blood lipids, and CVD.
We are extremely excited about the potential of our study to allow, for the first time, an understanding of the relationship between LDL-C and ApoB in the UK, enabling precision and personalised nutrition approaches for both treating and preventing CVD.
The UK Biobank invited us to submit a detailed outline of our project, which is in progress. Before UK Biobank allows us to access the data we need to pay a registration and data release fee, which is what we are requesting funds for. All other costs for the execution of the study are covered by our institutions.
Upon receiving the data, we will analyse and interpret the results. We intend to present the initial findings at a conference and 'hot off the press' outcomes will be fed back to Experiment funders. Finally, we plan to produce a manuscript for publication acknowledging all members who donated.
In addition to this, we will donate anything we raise beyond our initial budget to the British Hearth Foundation, a leading UK charity in the field of cardiovascular research.
We have already informed the UK Biobank about our proposed study and have been invited to submit a detailed outline. We are aiming to do this in February 2019. We will then request the data and commence analysis. As soon as we have our findings we will immediately inform Experiment.com funders. We plan to present our data at a national nutrition conference and publish the results in a peer-reviewed journal.
Feb 07, 2019
Experiment.com crowdfunding campaign
Feb 07, 2019
Mar 29, 2019
Detailed research plan submitted to the UK Biobank
Apr 26, 2019
Apply to the UK Biobank for data release
May 17, 2019
Receipt of data and statistical analysis
Meet the Team
During my PhD I became pretty much obsessed by lipids and lipoproteins and their role in cardiovascular disease. I have recently completed a postdoctoral project investigating the molecular composition of LDL particles which was hugely exciting; however, I also have an interest in population-level data and how it can be used to determine risk and inform public health initiatives to prevent and treat disease.
Furthermore, I am in the process of examining data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES); findings of which I am aiming to present at a large European nutrition conference in 2019 and then publish. However, I would like to further this research and both expand my own personal understanding of the area and contribute towards the prevention of cardiovascular disease. These are the driving forces behind my role in the study and I absolutely cannot wait to get started!
Since I was a teenager, I have been fascinated about how diet affects our physiology, with my initial interest relating to the growth of muscle mass spurred on by my passion for strength training. As I matured and after studying Biochemistry, I discovered my affinity for blood lipids. During a Research Assistant position, I developed methods specifically to separate lipoprotein particles (yes, those particles we are asking for Experiment.com funding to study further!). This work was highly satisfying and resulted in a number of peer reviewed publications and book chapters.
My drive to understand how diet can change an individual’s lipid and lipoprotein profile, and ultimately CVD risk eventually led to a PhD. During this exciting period of my life I studied a number of different dietary interventions, from oily fish to low carbohydrate diets and discovered through my research the serious impact that diet can have upon blood lipids and lipoproteins.
Fast forward twenty years later and I am now in an academic position and still obsessed with this area. Albeit with a few more studies under my belt and PhD students and postdoctoral researchers of my own to supervise! Furthermore, the research in my area has rapidly progressed over recent years and I am extremely excited about the advancements which are now on the horizon of the field. This is because I wholeheartedly believe that changes to our dietary advice and the food industry could lead to drastic improvements in peoples’ lipid profiles and ultimately reductions in CVD.
Only time will tell, but being part of shaping that future is what inspires me and is one of the reasons that drives me to get out of bed at 6am five days a week. Weekends its 7am woken by my beautiful 2-year-old daughter, who’s future health and happiness is my only motivation.
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