MONDAY, Nov. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Current practice calls for patients to fast at least eight hours before having their cholesterol levels checked, but Canadian researchers report that may be unnecessary.
"For routine screening, fasting for cholesterol is largely unnecessary," because it has only a slight effect on test results, said lead researcher Dr. Christopher Naugler, assistant professor of clinical pathology at the University of Calgary, in Canada. "Eliminating fasting as a general requirement for cholesterol testing could greatly increase convenience for patients without significantly altering test results."
There are some patients, however, such as those with abnormally high triglycerides, where a repeat fasting cholesterol measurement may be necessary, Naugler said.
The report was published in the Nov. 12 online edition of the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.
For the study, Naugler and his colleague Dr. Davinder Sidhu looked at laboratory data on cholesterol tests from more than 200,000 patients.
The researchers compared fasting time with resulting cholesterol levels. Overall, they found fasting time made little difference in the accuracy of the blood test. Levels of total and HDL (good) cholesterol varied less than 2 percent with different fasting times.
In addition, levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol varied less than 10 percent and levels of triglycerides, a marker linked with inflammation, varied less than 20 percent, the researchers noted.
"In our opinion, physicians and health care providers may consider doing non-fasting lipid tests based on the current evidence," said Dr. Samia Mora, assistant professor of medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and co-author of an accompanying journal commentary.
Either non-fasting or fasting blood tests may be used for cholesterol testing, Mora said.
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