Sharlayne Tracy of the University of Texas is something of a medical miracle. In a country where bad cholesterol is standard, she has an astoundingly low cholesterol level, which has led doctors to attempt to use her blood and body type to create new cholesterol blocking drugs.
It should be noted that while her LDL (low-density lipoprotein – the “bad” kind of cholesterol) is very low, she is also an energetic aerobics instructor.
Her physical activity notwithstanding, she is one of a number of African-Americans whose body chemistry is being considered exceptional. She has inherited a mutation from both her parents in a gene that is being called PCSK9.
PCSK9 has the ability to stop regulation of LDL levels in the blood, letting them drop to levels that are unnaturally low. Other African-Americans with this mutation have proven to be 90% less likely to die of heart disease.
This fortunate mutation is one of the most promising targets for cholesterol research. By determining what it is that makes people like Tracy so capable of ignoring cholesterol, it might be possible to allow those that need cholesterol blocking drugs to live healthier lives.
But it is not a substitute.
Losing weight and living healthy are part and parcel. Even lowering cholesterol through medication will only help so much. The people that PCSK9 works for are those that are willing to help themselves. The intent of any drug is to help people trying to live healthy. It is not intended for weight loss, merely to limit the likelihood of a heart attack for active individuals.