Study reveals that bilirubin might improve cardiovascular health, according to a study conducted on May 18, 2018.
Researchers analyzed health data of almost 100,000 veterans, both with and without HIV infection and found that within normal ranges, higher levels of bilirubin in the blood were associated with lower rates of heart failure, heart attack and stroke. Studies conducted earlier have suggested that bilirubin might have useful effects, as an antioxidant.
The data from the veterans adds to this evidence, and specifically looks at people living with HIV and at an anti-HIV drug, atazanavir, known to elevate bilirubin. The researchers did not see an independent effect of atazanavir on cardiovascular risk. Researchers say that HIV infection has negative effects on cardiovascular health, even if it is controlled by using antiretroviral drugs.
Marconi, professor of medicine and global health at Emory University School of Medicine and Rollins School of Public Health said, “We initially wanted to see if bilirubin and cardiovascular disease had a different relationship in people who were HIV positive, compared to HIV negative.” Marconi and his colleagues examined data from the Veterans Aging Cohort Study (VACS) to have a nationwide look at HIV infection. VACS data included 31,418 HIV-positive and 66,987 HIV-negative veterans, almost all men and 48 percent African American. Their age was an average of 48 years. Then, the participants included in the study were divided into four groups based on their bilirubin levels.
Higher levels of bilirubin meant lower risk of heart attack, heart failure or stroke. The group with the highest level of bilirubin had 76 percent of the risk for combined cardiovascular events as the group with the lowest level, with effects seen even in people without liver disease. This study will be beneficial for future studies to investigate how the antioxidant effect of bilirubin could be harnessed to reduce chronic disease morbidity risk.