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VLDL Cholesterol Numbers

written by: NoreenK • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 10/27/2009

VLDL cholesterol numbers are part of measurements of triglycerides, an important measure of cardiovascular health and a critical test in overall health check ups, along with blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

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    Why is it Important to Check VLDL levels?

    VLDL or Very Low Density Lipoprotein is produced continuously by the liver and contains most of the body’s endogenously synthesized triglyceride and a small amount of cholesterol. Lipoproteins are composed of cholesterol, triglycerides and proteins and are responsible for transporting cholesterol and other lipids throughout the body. Other lipoproteins in the body are HDL or High Density Lipoprotein and LDL or Low Density Lipoprotein. LDL contains the most cholesterol (which is why it is often referred to as ‘lethal lipid levels’), HDL contains the highest level of cholesterol and VLDL contains the most triglyceride (a type of fat). LDL and VLDL are both considered "bad" types of lipoproteins because elevated levels mean high cholesterol in the body.

    Therefore it is important to get VLDL levels tested, which can be done by a simple blood test as part of a general check up. High VLDL cholesterol numbers are not desirable.

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    How Does the Body Use VLDL?

    The body builds cells and some hormones from cholesterol while triglycerides are mainly used for energy production. Neither of these fats can dissolve in blood, but circulate in the blood attached to lipoproteins.

    VLDL is the body’s main source of energy during continuous prolonged fasting. High levels of VLDL may indicate hyperlipidemia (too much cholesterol in the body) resulting from genetic causes and an individual’s diet. The body converts calories eaten into triglycerides, and if more calories are ingested than burned, the excess triglycerides are stored as fat cells and released for energy between meals. The condition of having excess triglycerides is called hypertriglyceridemia.

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    What is a Normal Level of VLDL?

    Normal ranges of VLDL cholesterol in the body is from 0.128 to 0.645 mmol/L, or 5 to 40 mg/dL. VLDL levels are not measured directly but are estimated from triglyceride calculations, which are only valid if the triglyceride result is higher than 400 mg/dl.

    VLDL tests are used to determine risks of cholesterol from both hereditary and lifestyle causes. The test is included in assessments of coronary disease risk as increased VLDL levels are linked to atherosclerosis, stiffening and narrowing of the arteries which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.

    Healthy nutrition and lifestyle changes such as a balanced diet and regular exercise can help decrease triglyceride levels, which in turn lowers VLDL cholesterol numbers. Sugar-rich foods, simple carbohydrates and alcohol also cause an increase in triglyceride levels.