Association of fasting and nonfasting serum triglycerides with cardiovascular disease and the role of remnant-like lipoproteins and small dense LDL

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Purpose of review

The magnitude of the contribution of serum triglycerides to cardiovascular disease risk and the mechanisms by which triglyceride-rich lipoproteins exert their effect on the vascular wall are largely unknown. Postprandial lipemia likewise has been linked to atherosclerosis, but large prospective studies assessing the magnitude of this association are also lacking. Hypertriglyceridemia is characterized by the presence of cholesterol-rich remnant-like lipoproteins and small dense LDL particles, both of which are believed to contribute to cardiovascular disease risk.

Recent findings

Several large prospective cohort studies and a meta-analysis have been published recently, investigating the association of fasting and nonfasting serum triglycerides with cardiovascular disease. Fasting triglycerides increase the adjusted hazard ratios for cardiovascular disease risk 1.7× (comparing upper with lower tertile), and nonfasting levels around 2.0×. Measurement of nonfasting triglycerides may be more feasible and more informative, but standardization of a test meal is necessary. For clinical practice, the concentration of the atherogenic lipoprotein subfractions in hypertriglyceridemia may be reflected best by measuring apolipoprotein B.


Nonfasting triglyceride levels may replace fasting levels in assessing cardiovascular disease risk once standard reference values have been developed. Several atherogenic lipoprotein subfractions can be measured by including apolipoprotein B in addition to HDL, (nonfasting) triglycerides and LDL cholesterol.

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