Cholesterol Blood Test Results Explained – Fasting vs Nonfasting!
A period of fasting is often required by a health care provider preceding a cholesterol blood test. Along with tests to look for diabetes that measure sugar, a lipid panel is one of few monitoring tests that require a period of not eating before the blood is taken. This is because a large meal or meals containing certain type of foods may interfere with or react with the results, which can indicate or refute the need for cholesterol medications or treatment plans based on inaccurate results.
However, there are some interesting things to point out when it comes to fasting and not fasting prior to a lipid panel. WebMD points out that the differences in results with regards cholesterol numbers have not been as widely skewed as anticipated when fasting and non fasting testers were compared in a recent study. In fact, in terms of LDL cholesterol, the variance in difference between those who ate and did not eat before the cholesterol blood test was nominal, and averaged at a less than 10% margin. LDL cholesterol is considered “bad” cholesterol and it is the substance that is associated with clogging arteries and contributing to heart disease and heart attacks. Monitoring the levels of LDL cholesterol are very important, but study results pointing to a less than ten percent margin of error may not be off enough to dispute high levels of LDL cholesterol if present.
A cholesterol blood test study that observed fasting and non fasting participants showed an even less relevant difference in terms of HDL cholesterol. Known as the “good” type of waxy substance, HDL cholesterol is often thought of as the highway patrol of the body’s blood ways. It seeks out clumps and clusters of LDL cholesterol that has adhered itself to artery walls, and then sends it off to be disposed of. WebMD explains that in fasting versus non fasting people participating in the recent study, the variance was even less significant than it is in the case of LDL cholesterol, with the fluctuation margin in those that ate and those that didn’t before the test averaging around 2%. So, the good news is that in terms of cholesterol levels for men and women, the results that are obtained whether fasting was or was not included vary little. However, there is one part of the lipid panel that can be substantially affected by a big meal.
A standard lipid panel measures cholesterol and triglycerides, and is meant to provide a comprehensive picture of lipid levels throughout the body. While recent studies have concluded that one giant act of consumption will likely yield little change in cholesterol levels, it can have a major impact on triglyceride level results. WebMD explains that of all the components of a cholesterol blood test, the factors most influences by food intake are triglycerides, which can fluctuate by amounts of as much as 20% post large meal. This is important to know because 20% is a large enough factor to mean the difference between normal values and those that require lifestyle and dietary changes.
This factor however is not relevant to persons who are focused on their total cholesterol levels alone. Ahajournals.com points out that total cholesterol is comprised of HDL, LDL and VLDL levels as part of a cholesterol blood test, and triglycerides are not included. This is good news for people who monitor their total cholesterol at home with drug store cholesterol test kits. Most of the time, these self use devices provide only a total cholesterol reading without specifics. Understanding how food affects the results of home cholesterol test kits means that there is less worry about whether or not food is playing a role in the outcome of results.
Recent studies have concluded that cholesterol levels in women and men in terms HDL and LDL are not affected much by fasting. But, that does not mean that skipping a meal or two before a cholesterol blood test is not a good idea, especially if triglycerides are problematic for you. In addition, in persons with elevated cholesterol, having the most accurate number possible is essential to determining ideal treatment methods, and fasting may be important in this regard as well. One thing is for certain, if cholesterol is high, a blood test is going to indicate it, whether food has been consumed or not, and ultimately knowing that there is a problem is the most important end result and why the test is performed in the first place.