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Alternate Names

  • very-low-density lipoprotein


Fat travels through the body in packages called lipoproteins. Very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) carries a type of fat known as triglycerides. The amount of VLDL in the blood can be measured. It is usually measured with other lipoproteins, such as HDL and LDL. This is known as a lipid profile test.

Who is a candidate for the test?

The level of VLDL can help assess a person's risk of atherosclerosis (clogged arteries). The test can also monitor how well medications prescribed to lower lipids are working.

How is the test performed?

The test is performed on a sample of blood. A needle is inserted into a vein, usually in the person's arm. Blood is then collected into a vial. A bandage and pressure are applied to the skin to prevent bleeding. The blood is sent to the lab for testing.

What is involved in preparation for the test?

The person needs to refrain from eating for 10 to 12 hours before the test. Drinking water is permitted.

What do the test results mean?

Normal VLDL levels are 25% to 50% of total cholesterol. Higher amounts are linked to a higher risk of heart disease.
Reasons for high VLDL levels can include:
  • hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid gland
  • high alcohol intake
  • chronic liver disease, such as cirrhosis
  • chronic kidney disease
  • diabetes
  • obesity
  • pancreatitis
  • pregnancy or certain hormone medications
  • deficiency of an enzyme that breaks down lipids
Low levels of VLDL can result from:
  • an inherited tendency toward low LDL and VLDL levels
  • abnormally low levels of protein in the blood, called hypoproteinemia. This may be the result of malnutrition, bowel problems, or severe burns.
  • hyperthyroidism, or an overactive thyroid gland


Mosby's Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests, 1998, Kathleen D. Pagana and Timothy J. Pagana, Mosby, St. Louis.

Triglycerides: Bad Actors or Innocent Bystander?, May 1998, Harvard Heart Letter.

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