Cholesterol Levels May Spike During Winter Months
Tendency to eat more, exercise less when it's cold and snowy outside may explain trend
By Dennis Thompson
THURSDAY, March 27, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Here's something that's sure to alarm the millions of Americans who have braved the fiercest, longest winter in recent memory: A new study shows that your cholesterol levels fluctuate seasonally and are at their worst during cold winter months.
The research, which included 2.8 million adults, brings to stark light the potential effects of comfort food and bad weather on a person's health during the winter.
"It's not just some weight that you're gaining" when you eat more and exercise less during the winter, said lead investigator Dr. Parag Joshi, a cardiology fellow at Johns Hopkins. "There are markers in your blood that are changing, and those markers contribute to heart disease."
Researchers at Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease analyzed cholesterol levels in more than 2.8 million Americans between 2006 and 2013, according to findings that were to be presented Monday at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology in Washington, D.C.
The investigators categorized each sample by the time of year it was taken, based on the summer and winter equinoxes, and then compared samples across seasons.
The study found that levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol were 3.5 percent higher in men and 1.7 percent higher in women during colder months.
Women and men had variations in total cholesterol of approximately 2 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) and 4 mg/dL, respectively, between the summer and winter.
On the other hand, levels of "good" HDL cholesterol did not seem to vary much by season, the findings showed.
Earlier studies have had similar results, but this is the first study to observe the fluctuations in this large a group. "You generate a lot of power if you have nearly 3 million unique individuals to observe," Joshi said.
The results make sense given the way people tend to respond to cold weather, said Dr. Gerald Fletcher, a cardiologist with the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., and a spokesperson for the American Heart Association.