Still, some experts in the field say despite the recent negative studies, many questions remain to be answered. Dr. Michael Miller, director of the Center for Preventive Cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center, said the findings of the study belie the complexity of HDL, and that more research is needed before such efforts are abandoned.
"Bottom line: don't throw the baby out with the bathwater," he said in an email. "The inverse relationship between HDL and heart disease is based on a half-century worth of data."
As for what the general public can take away from the research, Dr. Dean Ornish said the findings underscore the idea that when it comes to reducing heart disease risk, it's not a simple matter of good versus bad.
"I think this study shows a fundamental confusion about HDL," said Ornish, founder and president, Preventive Medicine Research Institute in San Francisco. "Not everything that raises HDL is good, and not everything that lowers it is bad."
"Many people, including physicians, get into a simple-minded idea that HDL is 'good cholesterol' and LDL is 'bad cholesterol.' It's not so simple."