Farewell to fasting before a cholesterol test?

Research we're watching

Don't want to skip breakfast before your cholesterol test? You probably don't need to. A study published online May 28 by JAMA Internal Medicine adds to the evidence that fasting isn't necessary before this common blood test, often referred to as a lipid profile.

For the study, nearly 8,300 people at risk for heart disease had fasting and nonfasting lipid profile tests done at least four weeks apart. (Fasting means they had nothing to eat or drink except water for at least eight hours before the test.) The differences in their total, LDL, and HDL cholesterol values were negligible. Triglyceride levels were modestly higher in the nonfasting samples.

Researchers followed the participants for a median of just over three years. They found that fasting or not fasting before the test had little effect on predicting people's risk of future heart problems. As they note, fasting may be risky in some older people and those with diabetes, whose blood sugar levels may dip too low. Plus, skipping the fasting requirement makes cholesterol testing simpler for everyone involved.

Image: © jarun011/Getty Images

Disclaimer:
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.