Abnormalities of plasma lipid and lipoprotein concentrations are common in both insulin-dependent (IDDM) and non-insulin-dependent (NIDDM) diabetes mellitus. In general, individuals with IDDM who are untreated or inadequately treated have elevations in both postprandial and fasting triglyceride levels in association with reduced activity of lipoprotein lipase. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels can rise when insulin deficiency impacts on LDL-receptor function. When patients with IDDM are treated and plasma glucose levels well controlled, plasma very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) triglyceride and LDL cholesterol levels are usually normal. In addition, plasma high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels are normal or elevated in well-controlled IDDM subjects. In NIDDM, increased VLDL triglyceride and reduced HDL cholesterol concentrations are common and are only partially related to glycemic control. Overproduction of VLDL leads to hypertriglyceridemia, which can be exacerbated if lipoprotein lipase activity is also reduced. The regulation of LDL levels is complex; catabolism can be reduced if significant insulin deficiency exists or increased if significant hypertriglyceridemia is present. The reduced levels of HDL cholesterol in NIDDM appear to be related to increased exchange of HDL cholesteryl esters for VLDL triglycerides, although other mechanisms may exist. The roles of insulin resistance, obesity, and independently inherited abnormalities of lipoprotein metabolism in the etiology of dyslipidemia of NIDDM are complex and require further investigation. Finally, the effects of diabetes on glycosylation of apoproteins; on other lipid enzymes, particularly hepatic triglyceride lipase; on lipoprotein surface lipids; and on hepatic uptake of remnants have only just begun to be defined. In view of the marked increase in atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease in individuals with diabetes mellitus, prompt attention to and aggressive therapy for dyslipidemia should be a central component of care for these patients.

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