For those who hate to fast before getting a blood test to check their cholesterol levels, a new study delivers some good news.
Most people may not have to abstain from everything but water before having the test, the study found.
Little effect on predictions
"We hope this study will be the final nail in the coffin, providing strong evidence that within the same person, fasting or not before a lipid level test doesn't matter for predicting cardiovascular risk," said study corresponding author Dr Samia Mora. She is director of the Center for Lipid Metabolomics at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
The study included more than 8 000 people from a previous trial of European participants whose fasting and non-fasting cholesterol levels were measured four weeks apart. They were then followed for a median of just over three years for major heart problems such as heart attack, stroke, heart disease and heart-related death.
The researchers found that fasting or not fasting before a cholesterol test – also called lipid level testing – led to similar results in the same people, and that fasting or not fasting before the test had little effect on predicting the risk for future major heart problems.
The results add to growing evidence that most patients don't need to fast before having a cholesterol test to determine their future risk of major heart problems, according to the researchers.
Fasting can be risky
For decades, studies have suggested that to be the case, but there have been lingering questions.
"This should reassure health care providers and patients that it doesn't make a difference if you fast or don't fast if the goal is to predict your cardiovascular risk," Mora added in a hospital news release.
"We spend most of our lives in a non-fasting state. And for some patients, especially those who are elderly or have diabetes, it can be risky to fast before lipid testing," Mora said.
"Health care providers held back because of concerns of variability within individuals, but the data here is so convincing. It should allow people to feel more comfortable with non-fasting lipid testing for cardiovascular risk assessment, including when taking a statin," Mora concluded.
The researchers noted that most of the study participants were white, male Europeans, but that the findings likely apply to other populations.
The study was published online in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.
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