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Individuals with features of metabolic syndrome are particularly susceptible to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), a novel coronavirus associated with the severe respiratory disease, coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Despite considerable attention dedicated to COVID-19, the link between metabolic syndrome and SARS-CoV-2 infection remains unclear. Using data from the UK Biobank, we investigated the relationship between severity of COVID-19 and metabolic syndrome-related serum biomarkers measured prior to SARS-CoV-2 infection. Logistic regression analyses were used to test biomarker levels and biomarker-associated genetic variants with SARS-CoV-2-related outcomes. Among SARS-CoV-2-positive cases and negative controls, a 10 mg/dl increase in serum HDL-cholesterol or apolipoprotein A1 levels was associated with ~10% reduced risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection, after adjustment for age, sex, obesity, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and coronary artery disease. Evaluation of known genetic variants for HDL-cholesterol revealed that individuals homozygous for apolipoprotein E4 alleles had ~2- to 3-fold higher risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection or mortality from COVID-19 compared with apolipoprotein E3 homozygotes, even after adjustment for HDL-cholesterol levels. However, cumulative effects of all evaluated HDL-cholesterol-raising alleles and Mendelian randomization analyses did not reveal association of genetically higher HDL-cholesterol levels with decreased risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection. These results implicate serum HDL-cholesterol and apolipoprotein A1 levels measured prior to SAR-CoV-2 exposure as clinical risk factors for severe COVID-19 infection but do not provide evidence that genetically elevated HDL-cholesterol levels are associated with SAR-CoV-2 infection.