Purpose of review: The serum noncholesterol sterols are widely used today in clinical lipid research as surrogate markers of cholesterol absorption and synthesis. Their applicability and some aspects related to their analysis, use, and interpretations are discussed.
Recent findings: The serum markers of cholesterol metabolism have been carefully validated in several populations and during different interventions. If the homeostasis between cholesterol absorption and synthesis is lost, the markers cannot be used as surrogates. The markers have been applied in large population and cohort studies to find out how cholesterol metabolism is related to coronary artery disease. Most of the large studies suggested that increased levels of the markers of cholesterol absorption may conceivably be a risk factor for coronary artery disease.
Summary: Results even from large population studies vary from population to population. The large number of factors, which interfere with cholesterol metabolism, such as age, sex, BMI, diet, health status, medication, and genetic background, and differences in the analysis methods of the serum markers should be taken into consideration when interpreting the data.
Division of Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
Correspondence to Helena Gylling, MD, Biomedicum Helsinki C 4 22, PO BOX 700, 00029 HUS, Helsinki, Finland. Tel: +358 9 47171850; fax: +358 9 471 71851; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org