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Fasting time and lipid parameters: association with hepatic steatosis — data from a random population sample

Martin Gruchot1, Tilmann Graeter2, Suemeyra Oeztuerk1, Mark Martin Haenle1, Wolfgang Koenig3, Armin Imhof3, Bernhard Otto Boehm1, Richard Andrew Mason4, Wolfgang Kratzer1*, Atilla Serif Akinli1 and the EMIL-Study group

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Internal Medicine I, University Hospital Ulm, Albert-Einstein-Allee 23, 89081 Ulm, Germany

2 Department of Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology, University Hospital Ulm, Albert-Einstein-Allee 23, 89081 Ulm, Germany

3 Department of Internal Medicine II - Cardiology, University Hospital Ulm, Albert-Einstein-Allee 23, 89081 Ulm, Germany

4 Louis Stokes Cleveland Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, 10700 East Boulevard, Cleveland, OH 44106 USA

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Lipids in Health and Disease 2014, 13:18  doi:10.1186/1476-511X-13-18

Published: 22 January 2014



Current guidelines recommend measuring plasma lipids in fasting patients. Recent studies, however, suggest that variation in plasma lipid concentrations secondary to fasting time may be minimal. Objective of the present study was to investigate the impact of fasting time on plasma lipid concentrations (total cholesterol, HDL and LDL cholesterol, triglycerides). A second objective was to determine the effect of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease exerted on the above-mentioned lipid levels.


Subjects participating in a population-based cross-sectional study (2,445 subjects; 51.7% females) were questioned at time of phlebotomy regarding duration of pre-phlebotomy fasting. Total cholesterol, LDL and HDL cholesterol, and triglycerides were determined and correlated with length of fasting. An upper abdominal ultrasonographic examination was performed and body-mass index (BMI) and waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) were calculated. Subjects were divided into three groups based on their reported fasting periods of 1–4 h, 4–8 h and > 8 h. After application of the exclusion criteria, a total of 1,195 subjects (52.4% females) were included in the study collective. The Kruskal-Wallis test was used for continuous variables and the chi-square test for categorical variables. The effects of age, BMI, WHR, alcohol consumption, fasting time and hepatic steatosis on the respective lipid variables were analyzed using multivariate logistic regression.


At multivariate analysis, fasting time was associated with elevated triglycerides (p = 0.0047 for 1–4 h and p = 0.0147 for 4–8 h among females; p < 0.0001 for 1–4 h and p = 0.0002 for 4–8 h among males) and reduced LDL cholesterol levels (p = 0.0003 for 1–4 h and p = 0.0327 for 4–8 h among males). Among males, hepatic steatosis represents an independent factor affecting elevated total cholesterol (p = 0.0278) and triglyceride concentrations (p = 0.0002).


Total and HDL cholesterol concentrations are subject to slight variations in relation to the duration of the pre-phlebotomy fasting period. LDL cholesterol and triglycerides exhibit highly significant variability; the greatest impact is seen with the triglycerides. Fasting time represents an independent factor for reduced LDL cholesterol and elevated triglyceride concentrations. There is a close association between elevated lipids and hepatic steatosis.

Lipids; Total cholesterol; LDL cholesterol; HDL cholesterol; Triglycerides; Fasting time; Population-based; Cross-sectional; Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)