Researchers discover direct link between calcium and cholesterol

It's well known that calcium is essential for strong bones and teeth, but new research shows it also plays a key role in moderating another important aspect of health—cholesterol.

Scientists at the University of Alberta and McGill University have discovered a direct link between calcium and cholesterol, a discovery that could pave the way for new ways of treating high blood cholesterol.

The researchers began the work after having their curiosity piqued while studying the role of a calcium-binding protein. They noticed an extreme rise of blood cholesterol concentration in mice when the protein was not present. To follow up on this observation, Marek Michalak with a graduate student Wen-An Wang (University of Alberta) and Luis Agellon (McGill University) teamed up with geneticist Joohong Ahnn (Hanyang University, Korea) and discovered that the physiological link between calcium and cholesterol is also preserved in worms.

"There is a mechanism inside the cell that senses when there is not enough cholesterol present and turns on the machinery to make more," said Michalak, a distinguished university professor in the University of Alberta's Department of Biochemistry. "What we found is that a lack of calcium can hide cholesterol from this machinery. If you lose calcium, your synthetic machinery thinks there's no cholesterol and it starts making more even if there is already enough."

Controlling cholesterol metabolism

High blood cholesterol is a known risk factor for developing heart disease. "Factors that affect blood cholesterol concentration have been studied for a long time," said Agellon, a professor at McGill's School of Human Nutrition. "The general belief was that cholesterol controlled its own synthesis inside of cells, and then we discovered in our labs that calcium can control that function too. Finding this link potentially opens a door to developing new ways of controlling cholesterol metabolism."

The researchers consider their finding a significant step toward developing different approaches to patient care in the future, but there is more work to be done. They are now looking to discover the common factor that allows calcium and cholesterol to communicate with each other in the cell and have received a four-year grant worth $456,000 from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to continue their work.


  1. Augie Snyder Augie Snyder United States says:

    so i should drink more milk and eat more cheese?

  2. Cakao cakao2 Cakao cakao2 United States says:

    I know one with more calcium in blood and cholesterol very good- ratio 3, triglycerides good, but arteries clogged with calcium+ cholesterol and 3 stents must be installed. No body believed that her arteries can be clogged. Only high calcification of the arteries sent her for angiography based on the heart condition. Calcium in the bones and calcium in the blood are  two different animals, according to the cardiologist.

  3. jahid hossain jahid hossain Bangladesh says:

    The relationship between calcium and cholesterol is still unclear to me.
    Plz explain elaborately.

  4. Renan Krabbe Renan Krabbe Brazil says:

    Antes de chegar a conclusões deve ser realizado estudos detalhados.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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