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Gene Mutation Helps Clear Fats From Blood, Study Finds

But it is unknown if the beneficial effect actually cuts heart risks, researchers say

TUESDAY, Dec. 6, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- A gene mutation that helps clear fat from the body has been identified by scientists, but they don't know if people with this mutation have a lower risk of heart disease or other health problems.

Researchers in the Netherlands studied two families with unusually high levels of "good" HDL cholesterol and low levels of triglycerides, a type of fat that circulates in the blood. Genetic sequencing revealed that the families had a mutation in a gene called GALNT2.

When they drank pure cream, the people with this mutation were better able to clear those triglycerides than people without the mutation, the study found.

This may be due to a change in the interaction between GALNT2 and another factor called apolipoprotein C-III, the researchers said. They explained that Apo C-III inhibits an enzyme that breaks triglycerides down and Apo C-III is especially good at inhibiting that enzyme when it's modified by GALNT2.

But the mutated version of GALNT2 does not modify Apo C-III, which means it isn't as effective at inhibiting the enzyme that breaks down triglycerides. This means triglycerides are cleared more rapidly from the body.

The study appears in the December issue of the journal Cell Metabolism.

"It looks like this might be something good to have," researcher Jan Albert Kuivenhoven of the University Medical Center Groningen, said in a journal news release.

However, it's not known whether the people in the study will have a lower risk of heart disease or other health problems, he added.

More information

The American Heart Association has more about triglycerides.

SOURCE: Cell Metabolism, news release, Dec. 6, 2011
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