Studies have reported that higher circulating levels of total cholesterol (TC), low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and lower of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol may be associated with increased risk of abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). Whether dyslipidemia causes AAA is still unclear and is potentially testable using a Mendelian randomization (MR) approach. We investigated the associations between blood lipids and AAA using two-sample MR analysis with SNP-lipids association estimates from a published genome-wide association study of blood lipids (n = 188,577) and SNP-AAA association estimates from European Americans (EAs) of the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study (n = 8,793). We used inverse variance weighted (IVW) MR as the primary method and MR-Egger regression and weighted median MR estimation as sensitivity analyses. Over a median of 22.7 years of follow-up, 338 of 8,793 ARIC participants experienced incident clinical AAA. Using the IVW method, we observed positive associations of plasma LDL cholesterol and TC with the risk of AAA (odds ratio (OR) = 1.55, P = 0.02 for LDL cholesterol and OR = 1.61, P = 0.01 for TC per 1 standard deviation of lipid increment). Using the MR-Egger regression and weighted median methods, we were able to validate the association of AAA risk with TC, although the associations were less consistent for LDL cholesterol due to wider confidence intervals. Triglycerides and HDL cholesterol were not associated with AAA in any of the MR methods. Assuming instrumental variable assumptions are satisfied, our finding suggests that higher plasma TC and LDL cholesterol are causally associated with the increased risk of AAA in EAs.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) supported this research through R01 HL103695. The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study is carried out as a collaborative study supported by National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute contracts (HHSN268201100005C, HHSN268201100006C, HHSN268201100007C, HHSN268201100008C, HHSN268201100009C, HHSN268201100010C, HHSN268201100011C, and HHSN268201100012C), R01HL087641, R01HL59367 and R01HL086694; National Human Genome Research Institute contract U01HG004402; and National Institutes of Health contract HHSN268200625226C. The authors thank the staff and participants of the ARIC study for their important contributions. Infrastructure was partly supported by Grant Number UL1RR025005, a component of the National Institutes of Health and NIH Roadmap for Medical Research. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.