Lipid lowering activity of drugs affecting cholesterol absorption

G. D. Norata, A. L. Catapano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aim: Dietary cholesterol absorption, endogenous cholesterol synthesis and biliary cholesterol excretion regulate whole body cholesterol balance as a result of biotransformation into bile acids or direct cholesterol excretion. Recent studies have significantly advanced our understanding of intestinal sterol absorption at molecular level. This review concentrates on two major issues: the mechanisms of sterol absorption, and the currently available or experimental drugs that affect this pathway. Data synthesis: Nuclear hormone receptors, such as the liver X, farnesoid X and retinoid X receptors, regulate the absorption of dietary sterols by modulating the transcription of several genes involved in cholesterol metabolism, The ABC proteins transport dietary cholesterol from enterocytes back to the intestinal lumen, thus limiting the amount of absorbed cholesterol. By means of the same mechanism, ABC transporters also provide an efficient barrier against the absorption of plant sterols. Phytosterols, bile acid sequestrants, ezetimibe and ACAT inhibitors are possible means of affecting these pathways. Conclusion: In addition to providing an insight into the molecular mechanisms of sterol absorption, these recent findings may lead to new therapeutic options for the treatment of hypercholesterolemia. This is particularly true in the case of patients at high risk of coronary artery disease requiring aggressive lipid-lowering therapy combining a statin with drugs affecting cholesterol absorption in order to ensure the optimal management of dyslipidemia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)42-51
Number of pages10
JournalNutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2004


  • ACAT inhibitors
  • Bile acid sequestrants
  • Cholesterol absorption
  • Ezetimibe
  • Nuclear receptors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Food Science
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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