Women who follow low fat diets to reduce their cholesterol levels may be increasing their risk of heart disease, according to a Scottish study.
Professor Christopher Isles, consultant physician at Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary, examined 15,000 Scottish women and found that although they have higher levels of cholesterol than men, they are less likely to die from heart disease.
"Most studies of patients with coronary artery disease have focused on men, the assumption being that such data can be extrapolated to women. There is, however, little evidence to support this belief," he told a London seminar (Daily Telegraph, 16 April 1993).
In his study, women with the highest cholesterol levels were less likely to die from heart disease than men with the highest levels. He suggests that the female hormone oestrogen may act to protect women from heart disease.
Lowering cholesterol levels lowers women's levels of high density lipoprotein, a form of cholesterol which actually protects against heart disease, he says.