A lipid profile, also known as a lipid panel, is a blood test that measures various types of fats, or lipids, circulating in the human body. These include esterified cholesterol, triglycerides, and phospholipids. Because lipids are insoluble in water and blood plasma is a watery environment, lipids are associated with soluble proteins (proteins), forming spherical lipid-protein particles called lipoproteins.
Based on their different densities, lipoproteins are classified from smallest to largest as follows:
- Chylomicrons, very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL),
- Intermediate-density lipoproteins (IDL),
- Low-density lipoproteins (LDL),
- High-density lipoproteins (HDL).
IDL and VLDL
IDL is involved in transporting contents to LDL or endocytosis to liver cells using specific receptors, while the VLDL fraction transports contents to IDL and LDL and hydrolyzes triacylglycerols with the help of lipase.
Chylomicrons are the lowest density and largest lipoproteins. They contain the most lipids and the least protein (98% lipids and 2% proteins). They participate in transporting triacylglycerols to all tissues and in their hydrolysis to fatty acids by lipoprotein lipase. They also transport cholesterol to the liver.
Cholesterol plays many important roles in the body and is essential for the proper functioning of every cell. It is a component of cell membranes, participates in the production of bile acids, hormones, and vitamin D. It also ensures the proper functioning of the nervous system. Unfortunately, its excess in the body becomes the cause of many serious health problems. The transport of cholesterol in the blood is possible only by creating complexes (lipoproteins) of different sizes and densities with soluble plasma proteins, called fractions.
LDL (low-density lipoproteins), also known as "bad" cholesterol, is responsible for narrowing the lumen of the arteries and developing atherosclerosis. It transports cholesterol molecules from the liver to the tissues of the body, unlike HDL cholesterol, so its persistently high level promotes the development of atherosclerosis and heart disease.
HDL (high-density lipoproteins), known as "good" cholesterol, protects arteries by reducing the risk of coronary heart disease and atherosclerosis. Low levels of HDL should raise concern.
Triglycerides are the smallest component molecules of fat, composed of one glycerol molecule and three fatty acid molecules (different or the same). They can come from both food and be produced in the liver. They are stored in fat cells and serve as a reserve source of energy for tissues (mainly muscles) between meals.
How to lower cholesterol levels through diet?
- Eat 4-5 meals a day at regular intervals of 3-4 hours.
- Replace animal fats with healthy plant-based fats.
- Avoid consuming lard, butter, and cream. Include olive oil and rapeseed oil in your diet instead.
- Limit intake of fatty meats such as pork, fatty beef, duck, and goose. Eat oily fish at least twice a week.
- Consume foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
- Eliminate harmful trans fats from your diet, found in margarines, bakery products, sweets, ready-made soups and sauces, and fast food. Choose steaming and baking over frying.
- Replace sweets with healthy snacks such as nuts and low glycemic index fruits. Simple sugars cause an increase in the synthesis of harmful LDL cholesterol in the liver.
- Increase consumption of dietary fiber, which helps eliminate excess fat from the body.
- Have your last meal 3-4 hours before bedtime.
- Switch to whole grain bread instead of white bread. Opt for buckwheat, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, and legumes.
- Eat eggs soft-boiled with a runny yolk, as it contains lysine, which inhibits the increase of "bad" cholesterol in the blood.
In summary, lipid profile reflects the state of lipid metabolism in the human body, including the metabolism of lipoproteins and cholesterol. Lipid profile is a blood test that allows assessment of total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and triglyceride levels. It is also a marker that helps the doctor assess the risk of heart attack, stroke, ischemic disease, and coronary heart disease. The specialist assesses the risk of, for example, a heart attack through laboratory tests (lipid profile results) and our lifestyle assessment.
The European Society of Cardiology recommends a lipid profile for individuals with:
- Cardiovascular disease;
- Cardiovascular diseases;
- Overweight and obesity, when BMI ≥ 30 kg/m² or waist circumference in men > 94 cm and in women > 80 cm;
- Suspected premature cardiovascular disease in the family;
- Chronic kidney disease;
- Suspected familial hypercholesterolemia and other lipid disorders in the family;
Cholesterol levels should be checked at least once a year. It should be remembered that this is a basic analysis of lipids in the blood, which is ordered by a family doctor. The diagnostic test includes total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and triglyceride levels. The lipid profile result not only allows assessment of the risk of many diseases but often reflects bad eating habits, stress, and lifestyle.