WVU study shows weight training lowers cholesterol levels in adults

Abnormal levels increase heart disease risk

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Pumping iron could lower cholesterol levels, according to a study by researchers in the West Virginia University School of Medicine.

George A. Kelley, D.A., and Kristi S. Kelley, M.Ed., researchers in the WVU Department of Community Medicine, studied the effects of weight training on cholesterol levels in adults, using a meta-analytic approach. In meta-analysis, the results of multiple studies on a particular topic are consolidated to reach conclusions about a body of research and provide direction for future research.

A total of 29 studies that included 1,329 men and women of varying ages and body weights were pooled. Among participants who lifted weights, there was a significant drop of 3 percent in total cholesterol, 5 percent in LDL, or low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, also called “bad cholesterol” and 6 percent in triglycerides. No significant changes in HDL, the so-called “good cholesterol,” were found.

Experts say that high levels of total cholesterol, which is the combination of LDL  and triglycerides increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. At the same time, low levels of HDL  increase the risk for heart disease.

The authors also reported a significant decrease of 12 percent in the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL as well as a 6 percent drop in non-HDL. While elevated levels of both have been shown to increase the risk for heart disease, non-HDL – which is calculated by subtracting HDL from total cholesterol – has been shown to be a better predictor of heart disease than LDL, currently the primary target of cholesterol-lowering therapy in adults.

“These results are important for two reasons,” said George Kelley.  “First, it was previously thought that lifting weights had little if any effect on cholesterol levels. Second, we believe that our findings are practically important. For example, the decreases we observed in total cholesterol would be equivalent to a five percent decrease in the risk of heart disease.”

The study, supported by a grant from the American Heart Association, Great Rivers Affiliate, appeared in the January issue of Preventive Medicine, a peer-reviewed journal.

Some 700,000 people die from heart disease each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For information on the WVU Department of Community Medicine see http://www.hsc.wvu.edu/som/cmed.


For more information:
Angela Jones, HSC News Service, 304-293-7087
asj: 1-27-00

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