Influence of common genetic variation on blood lipid levels, cardiovascular risk, and coronary events in two British prospective cohort studies

Sonia Shah, Juan P. Casas, Tom R. Gaunt, Jackie Cooper, Fotios Drenos, Delilah Zabaneh, Daniel I. Swerdlow, Tina Shah, Reecha Sofat, Jutta Palmen, Meena Kumari, Mika Kivimaki, Shah Ebrahim, George Davey Smith, Debbie A. Lawlor, Philippa J. Talmud, John Whittaker, Ian N. M. Day, Aroon D. Hingorani, Steve E. Humphries*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Aims The aim of this study was to quantify the collective effect of common lipid-associated single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) on blood lipid levels, cardiovascular risk, use of lipid-lowering medication, and risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) events.

Methods and results Analysis was performed in two prospective cohorts: Whitehall II (WHII; N = 5059) and the British Women's Heart and Health Study (BWHHS; N = 3414). For each participant, scores were calculated based on the cumulative effect of multiple genetic variants influencing total cholesterol (TC), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), and triglycerides (TG). Compared with the bottom quintile, individuals in the top quintile of the LDL-C genetic score distribution had higher LDL-C {mean difference of 0.85 [95% confidence interval, (CI) = 0.76-0.94] and 0.63 [95% CI = 0.50-0.76] mmol/l in WHII and BWHHS, respectively}. They also tended to have greater odds of having 'high-risk' status (Framingham 10-year cardiovascular disease risk >20%) [WHII: odds ratio (OR) = 1.36 (0.93-1.98), BWHHS: OR = 1.49 (1.14-1.94)]; receiving lipid-lowering treatment [WHII: OR = 2.38 (1.57 3.59), BWHHS: OR = 2.24 (1.52-3.29)]; and CHD events [WHII: OR = 1.43 (1.02 2.00), BWHHS: OR 1.31 (0.99-1.72)]. Similar associations were observed for the TC score in both studies. The TG score was associated with high-risk status and medication use in both studies. Neither HDL nor TG scores were associated with the risk of coronary events. The genetic scores did not improve discrimination over the Framingham risk score.

Conclusion At the population level, common SNPs associated with LDL-C and TC contribute to blood lipid variation, cardiovascular risk, use of lipid-lowering medications and coronary events. However, their effects are too small to discriminate future lipid-lowering medication requirements or coronary events.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)972-981
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Heart Journal
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2013


  • Lipid genetic score
  • Lipid medication
  • Framingham
  • APOE


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