We're supposed to fast for eight to 12 hours before having our blood tested for cholesterol, but wouldn't it be great if we didn't have to forgo breakfast and that first cup of coffee?
Well, maybe we can. A new study suggests that most of us can skip fasting and still get accurate cholesterol measurements.
The study, published Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine, says fasting before the test has little impact on the results. Lipid, or fat, levels in the blood varied very little between those who fasted and those who didn't, said Canadian researchers who looked at 2011 cholesterol test results for more than 209,000 men and women.
The findings, wrote the researchers, "suggest that fasting for routine lipid level determination is largely unnecessary." (If you're having a fasting blood glucose test done at the same time, however, you will need to avoid eating for at least eight hours.)
Participants in the study fasted for anywhere from one to 16 hours beforehand, but cholesterol levels remained fairly steady regardless of fasting time. On average, there was a less than two percent variation in total cholesterol and HDL (sometimes called the "good" cholesterol), and less than a 10 percent variation for LDL (or "bad") cholesterol across the range of fasting times, reported CBS News.
Only triglyceride levels, another type of blood fat, seemed more affected by fasting. Those who ate an hour before a cholesterol test had triglyceride levels that were up to 20 percent higher than those who had fasted for several hours.
"An awful lot of people probably don't need to worry about fasting before getting cholesterol screening," J. Michael Gaziano, M.D., a preventive cardiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital who wrote an editorial that accompanied the study, told the Boston Globe.
Researchers wrote that fasting for routine blood work like this is an inconvenience for patients and may discourage some from even having the test. Plus, it's particularly difficult for diabetic patients who have difficulty controlling blood sugar during prolonged fasting.
While some patients with high triglyceride levels may still require fasting cholesterol tests, others should check with their doctor about whether they really need to skip breakfast before having that blood test.
In other health news:
Many older hospital patients given too much Tylenol. Reuters reports on a new study from two Boston hospitals that finds that one in every 15 patients treated with acetaminophen, or Tylenol, got more than the maximum daily recommended dose at least once. More than 20 percent of those age 65 and older, and close to that many patients with liver disease, were given over 3 grams in a day -- above the maximum limit set by the government for both those groups of patients.
Senior calendar girls get naked for a good cause. Sixteen women, all in their 70s and 80s, decided to raise money to help residents of their Maryland retirement community who have been hit hard by rising health care costs. Their idea: Tastefully pose nearly naked for a calendar selling for $15, the Huffington Post reports. The women say they got the idea from Helen Mirren's 2003 movie "Calendar Girls." The calendar, called "Going Bare For Benevolent Care 2013," is being sold on Amazon.
Photo: Neeta Lind via flickr