Very low density lipoprotein test
VLDL stands for very low density lipoprotein. Lipoproteins are made up of cholesterol, triglycerides, and proteins. They move cholesterol, triglycerides, and other lipids (fats) around the body.
VLDL is one of the three main types of lipoproteins. VLDL contains the highest amount of triglycerides. VLDL is a type of "bad cholesterol" because it helps cholesterol build up on the walls of arteries.
A lab test is used to measure the amount of VLDL in your blood.
How the Test is Performed
A blood sample is needed. Most of the time blood is drawn from a vein located on the inside of the elbow or the back of the hand.
How the Test will Feel
You may feel slight pain or a sting when the needle is inserted. You may also feel some throbbing at the site after the blood is drawn.
Why the Test is Performed
You may have this test to help assess your risk for heart disease. Increased levels of VLDL are linked to atherosclerosis. This condition can lead to coronary heart disease.
This test may be included in a coronary risk profile.
Normal VLDL cholesterol level is between 2 and 30 mg/dL.
Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test results.
The examples above show the common measurements for results for these tests. Some laboratories use different measurements or may test different specimens.
What Abnormal Results Mean
A high VLDL cholesterol level may be associated with a higher risk for heart disease and stroke. However, VLDL cholesterol level is rarely targeted when treatment for high cholesterol is done. Instead, LDL cholesterol level is more often the main target of therapy.
Veins and arteries vary in size from one person to another and from one side of the body to the other. Obtaining a blood sample from some people may be more difficult than from others.
The risks associated with having blood drawn are slight, but may include:
- Excessive bleeding
- Fainting or feeling lightheaded
- Hematoma (blood accumulating under the skin)
- Infection (a slight risk any time the skin is broken)
There is no direct way of measuring VLDL. Most labs estimate your VLDL based on your triglycerides level. It is about one fifth of your triglycerides level. This estimate is less accurate if your triglycerides level is above 400 mg/dL.
Bredefeld CL, Lau R, , Hussain MM. Lipids and dyslipoproteinemia. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 18.
Grundy SM, Stone NJ, Bailey AL, et al. 2018 AHA/ACC/AACVPR/AAPA/ABC/ACPM/ADA/AGS/APhA/ASPC/NLA/PCNA Guideline on the management of blood cholesterol: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Clinical Practice Guidelines. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2019;73(24):e285-e350. PMID: 30423393
Robinson JG. Disorders of lipid metabolism. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 195.
Last reviewed on: 7/14/2021
Reviewed by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.