What Is VLDL Cholesterol?

Very low density lipoproteins, or VLDL, are responsible for moving cholesterol, triglycerides and other lipids throughout the body. Lipoproteins are made up of cholesterol, triglycerides and proteins. According to the National Institutes of Health, of the three major types of lipoproteins, VLDL contains the highest amount of triglycerides.


VLDL helps cholesterol to build up on the walls of the arteries, therefore it is considered to be a type of "bad" cholesterol. High levels of VLDL cholesterol are considered to be a risk factor for coronary artery disease, which may lead to a heart attack or stroke.


A normal level of VLDL is between 5 and 40 mg/dl, according Mayo Clinic cardiologist Thomas Behrenbeck, although this range can vary slightly from lab to lab. This level is determined by simple blood tests. Generally, VLDL is one fifth of your triglyceride level, although this is less accurate if your triglyceride level is greater than 400 mg/dl.


Triglycerides are a type of fat manufactured in the body from any form of excess calories consumed. These unused calories are stored in the fat cells and are used for energy when there is not enough calories present. The role of VLDL is to carry triglycerides from the liver to the tissue for storage.


Dietary management of high VLDL and other types of cholesterol is the primary method of treatment, according to treatment guidelines published in the journal of the American Academy of Family Physicians. Lowering VLDL levels is directly affected by lowering triglyceride levels. Avoiding foods high in cholesterol and saturated fat is critical. Triglycerides can be controlled by decreasing your intake of simple carbohydrates, such as sugar, to control insulin, blood glucose levels and body weight. Increasing the amount of physical activity you perform will also help to increase high density lipoproteins, HDL, which will remove triglycerides and VLDL from your blood.


Because elevated triglyceride and VLDL levels are often associated with other conditions, it is difficult for scientists to determine if risk of coronary artery disease is associated mostly with high VLDL levels or with the other conditions, according to the American Heart Association. These other conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, and low levels of HDL cholesterol are known risk factors of atherosclerosis.

Expert Insight

Although total blood cholesterol levels are the most commonly discussed and evaluated number, all parts of the cholesterol blood profile must be evaluated, according to the American Heart Association. High levels of HDL, high density lipoproteins, have a protective factor on the heart. LDL, low density lipoproteins, should be below 100 mg/dl as they represent a bad form of cholesterol and high amounts increase your risk of heart disease. Your LDL number is a better indicator of cardiac risk than your total cholesterol level. Triglycerides, which as mentioned are transported by VLDL, are the most common form of fat in the body. High levels of triglycerides combined with low HDL and high LDL levels increase the buildup of fat in the arteries.

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