IMIM - Institut Hospital del Mar d'Investigacions Mèdiques IMIM - Institut Hospital del Mar d'Investigacions Mèdiques

Epidemiology and public health


Molecular and cellular mechanisms related to cardiovascular and neurodegenerative disease risk


As part of nutritional intervention studies, we have demonstrated favourable changes in the gene expression of peripheral mononuclear cells, particularly related to inflammation, insulin resistance, blood pressure, cholesterol metabolism, and processes linked to atherosclerosis.

Principal contribution: Farràs M, Nutrients 2019; Martin-Peláez S Eur J Nutr 2017; Farràs M J Nutr Biochem 2013; Castañer O Am J Clin Nutr 2013; Konstantinidou V Mol Nutr Food Res 2013; Castañer O Am J Clin Nutr 2012; Khymenets O Drug Metabol Disp 2010; Konstantinidou V FASEB J 2010; Konstantinidou V et al. OMICS 2009.

Role of high-density lipoproteins (HDL)

In recent years, it has been suggested that the quality of HDL may be equally or more important than the quantity of this kind of cholesterol. The CARIN Group has shown that after a nutritional intervention involving the Mediterranean diet or virgin olive oil, several functional properties of HDL (such as its ability to scavenge excess cholesterol from peripheral cells or macrophages, its antioxidant capacity, and its protective effects on the endothelium) may improve. In addition, the group has shown that a battery of biomarkers related to HDL function can predict the incidence of coronary syndrome better than (and independently of) HDL cholesterol concentrations, and they have recently studied the genetic basis of these functional HDL properties.

Principal contribution: Soria-Florido MT Circulation 2020; Hernáez A Mol Nutr Food Res 2019; Hernáez A Circulació 2017; Sayols-Baixera S Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol 2017.

Role of other lipoprotein properties in cardiovascular risk (VLDL and LDL)

Certain LDL properties may be equally or more important than the amount of cholesterol or triglycerides transported. The CARIN Group has demonstrated that following a Mediterranean diet or consuming virgin olive oil improves several characteristics related to LDL atherogenicity and has shown that these properties are associated with increased cardiovascular risk and certain cardiovascular risk factors. We have also established that triglyceride-rich lipoproteins are associated with cardiovascular disease risk and may carry a residual risk linked to the remaining cholesterol being transported. The group is currently studying the genetic basis of these traits and their causal relationship with cardiovascular disease, whether following a Mediterranean diet can decrease the atherogenicity of triglyceride-rich lipoproteins and the association of these traits with other diseases such as type 2 diabetes.

Principal contribution: Castañer O, JACC 2020; Hernáez A, PLoS ONE 2019; Climent I Obes Surg 2017; Climent I Surg Obes Relat Dis 2018, Hernáez A, Mol Nutr Food Res 2017.

Emerging and microbiota-related cardiovascular risk factors

The Group is also interested in the study of non-classical risk factors, such as low-grade inflammation, oxidative-stress-related biomarkers, insulin resistance, hormonal status, renal and cardiac function and endothelial dysfunction, which may contribute to advancing the understanding of cardiovascular disease. In particular, the group is also exploring new lines of research focused on changes in gut microbiota populations and permeability due to nutritional interventions and their relationship with cardiovascular risk.

Principal contribution: Castañer O Int J Endocrinol 2018; Subirana I Rep 2018; Martin-Peláez S Eur J Nutr 2017.

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