New study claims education may lower ‘bad’ cholesterol levels in women.

New research from the University of Cambridge has illustrated that high cholesterol levels in women are closely linked to their level of education.

The study revealed that Low Density Lipoprotein cholesterol levels [LDL-cholesterol] (also known as the bad cholesterol)] were higher in women who did not have educational qualifications beyond age 15, compared to those who did.

These results clearly demonstrated a correlation to education even after accounting for participants Body Mass Index (BMI) and alcohol consumption. Women with lower education also illustrated higher total cholesterol levels than other participants. Nevertheless, women’s occupation and the area in which they resided made no difference to LDL-cholesterol levels.

The study involved 22,451 participants between the age of 39 and 79 residing in the Norfolk region in the United Kingdom. All participants were required to specify their levels of alcohol consumption and their BMI was calculated. Socio-economic status was measured through completion of a survey using three categories; education level, social class (based on occupation) and the level of deprivation in the region they resided. Lastly, participants gave blood samples which researchers used to determine lipid levels for: total cholesterol, triglycerides, High Density Lipoprotein cholesterol [HDL- cholesterol] and LDL-cholesterol.

Researchers also established overall, that total cholesterol levels were higher in women than in men. It was suggested that this may be due to men’s cholesterol levels being correlated to exercise. Males in manual occupations demonstrated marginally lower levels of total cholesterol than those in non-manual occupations. This confirms a leading theory on the differences in cholesterol levels in males based on the variance in physical activity. Interestingly, no association was established between LDL-cholesterol levels in males and the three socioeconomic categories. It appears that high LDL-cholesterol levels seem to be primarily associated with women and their education.

Kay-Tee Khaw, the study’s lead researcher and Professor of clinical gerontology and Fellow of Gonville and Caius College at Cambridge University, stated, “There is a well-recognised social gradient in cardiovascular disease”. Nevertheless, she noted that evaluating the cause of these disparities in health is a complex process due to the diverse criteria used to measure socioeconomic status (e.g. education levels or the type of job may have differing effects on individual’s health). At the conclusion of the study, Khaw indicated that further research focussing independently on men and women was required to determine the reasons for these gender health disparities.

1. Susan Scutti, “Men who do manual labor and women with high education have lower cholesterol levels than others,” Medical Daily, August 28, 2014,, (accessed September 26, 2014).

2. Shane Canning, “Socioeconomic status and gender are associated with differences in cholesterol levels,” EurekAlert, Augusta 28, 2014,, (accessed September 26, 2014).

3. Ibid.

4. Madlen Davies, “Could a university degree lower cholesterol? Better educated women have less artery-clogging fat in their blood,” Daily Mail Australia, August 29, 2014,, (accessed September 26, 2014).

Article Source:
The above content is based on materials provided by Bio Med Central Public Health.
Note: Materials have been edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:
Shamarina Shohaima, et al., “Distribution of lipid parameters according to different socio-economic indicators- the EPIC- Norfolk prospective population study,” BMC Public Health 14, No. 782. (2014): 1-10.

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