What is VLDL cholesterol? Can it be harmful?

Answers from Thomas Behrenbeck, M.D., Ph.D.

Very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) cholesterol is a type of lipoprotein. Although you may hear about VLDL, your VLDL level usually isn't reported to you as a part of a routine cholesterol screen.

There are several types of cholesterol, each made up of lipoproteins and fats. Each type of lipoprotein contains a mixture of cholesterol, protein and a type of fat (triglyceride), but in varying amounts.

Of the lipoprotein types, VLDL contains the highest amount of triglyceride. Because it contains a high level of triglyceride, having a high VLDL level means you may have an increased risk of coronary artery disease, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Higher amounts and large VLDL particles are also associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure and stroke.

There's no simple, direct way to measure VLDL cholesterol, which is why it's normally not mentioned during a routine cholesterol screening. VLDL cholesterol is usually estimated as a percentage of your triglyceride value. A normal VLDL cholesterol level is between 5 and 30 milligrams per deciliter.

Jun. 22, 2012 See more Expert Answers