PURPOSE: To examine whether the association Apolipoprotein E (Apo E) phenotype with plasma lipids is influenced by physical fitness level. Also, to explore the interactive and independent relative contributions of Apo E phenotype, fitness (or physical activity), and other modifiable factors to variation in plasma low density lipoprotein (LDL-C) and high density lipoprotein (HDL-C) levels at baseline and over a seven-year follow-up. METHODS: Physical fitness (duration of a graded treadmill test), Apo E phenotype, plasma LDL-C and HDL-C, and covariates were measured at baseline and seven years later in a bi-racial cohort of young adults, aged 18-30 years at baseline in 1985-86 (N = 3629), from the Coronary Artery Risk Development In Young Adults (CARDIA) study. RESULTS: Fitness did not influence the associations of Apo E and LDL-C or HDL-C. The independent effects of several modifiable variables (changes in Keys' score, smoking, oral contraceptive use, education, body weight, alcohol intake, and fitness), when combined, contributed considerably more than Apo E to the variance in LDL-C changes (6.74% or 8.71% for combined modifiable variables vs. 1.27% or 0.90% for ApoE, in women or men, respectively) and HDL-C changes (13.11% or 12.66% for combined modifiable variables vs. 0.12% or 0.02% for ApoE, in women or men, respectively). The pattern of findings was similar when self-reported physical activity was substituted for fitness. CONCLUSIONS: Changes in modifiable factors, including fitness, may be stronger correlates of changes in LDL-C and HDL-C over time than the immutable factor, Apo E phenotype.
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