Type 1 Diabetes: Cholesterol Levels

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Type 1 Diabetes: Cholesterol Levels

Topic Overview

Cholesterol (or lipid) problems in people with type 1 diabetes are usually related to the lack of insulin.

  • Lack of insulin increases the level of triglycerides. Normally, insulin makes a certain enzyme that removes triglycerides from the blood. When insulin is used to treat high blood sugar, the triglyceride level goes back to normal.
  • A lack of insulin (and the high blood sugar that results) raises the level of "bad" cholesterol (LDL, or low-density lipoprotein). It returns to normal when insulin is given.

Data from the Diabetes Complications and Control Trial (DCCT) showed that people with type 1 diabetes had a lower incidence of heart disease when their blood sugars were kept within a target range. 1

This does not apply to people with nephropathy, because once the kidney starts losing even small amounts of protein, cholesterol problems begin to develop.



  1. Diabetes Control and Complications Trial/Epidemiology of Diabetes Interventions and Complications Study Research Group (2005). Intensive diabetes treatment and cardiovascular disease in patients with type 1 diabetes. New England Journal of Medicine, 353(25): 2634–2653.


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer David C.W. Lau, MD, PhD, FRCPC - Endocrinology
Last Revised January 13, 2011

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