CHICAGO (Reuters) - A new blood test found that people with high levels of a type of damaged cholesterol were much more likely to develop metabolic syndrome, putting them at higher risk of heart disease and diabetes, U.S. researchers said on Tuesday
The test, developed by researchers in Belgium, measures subtle damage to low-density lipoprotein, the so-called "bad" cholesterol, as an early warning sign of disease.
Identifying it as soon as possible could lead to people making lifestyle changes that might prevent further damage.
"Cholesterol is a fat. What the body does to transport cholesterol around is to encase it into a little particle that has protein on the outside, so that it is soluble," said David Jacobs of the University of Minnesota, whose study appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
But, Jacobs said, when this casing becomes oxidized, a kind of damage caused by charged particles known as free radicals, it can become embedded in arteries and start clogging them.
"That is the cause of coronary heart disease," said Jacobs, whose study appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association.