What is the difference between LDL and VLDL?

Lisa Nelson, RD, LN Health Pro November 03, 2008
  • If you are trying to sort out everything regarding cholesterol and make an informed treatment decision that's best for your health, you may be feeling overwhelmed.  I've already given steps to raise HDL and lower triglycerides, now I'd like to move into VLDL versus LDL. 

     

    Let's start at the beginning.  You eat a food and it provides more energy (calories) than you immediately need.  The liver breaks down some the carbohydrates and protein and forms triglycerides (fat) and cholesterol.  The liver is the major fat producing organ, while our adipose tissue (fat cells) stores the fat made by the liver.

     

    Well, we all know that oil (fat) and water (blood) do not mix.  So the liver, in order to solve this problem and export the triglycerides its' created, coats the fat (triglycerides) with a protein, cholesterol, and phospholipid shell.  A phospholipid shell is a structure that acts as an emulsifier so the fat and blood will mix.  The resulting product is called a lipoprotein (lipo or lipid = fat). 

     

    Lipoproteins can transport different components throughout your system, such as cholesterol, fat, and protein.  LDL (low density lipoprotein) and VLDL (very low density lipoprotein) transport mostly fat and cholesterol, but differ in the amount of each.

     

    The liver releases VLDL into circulation.  VLDL is made up of 55-65% triglycerides, 10-15% cholesterol, 15-20% phospholipid, and 5-10% protein.  For comparison, HDL the "good" cholesterol is 45-50% protein.  Once the VLDL is released, enzymes in the bloodstream interact with the triglycerides within the lipoprotein and change the package from "very low density" to "low density".  LDL is "less dense" than VLDL because it has lost a large chunk of triglycerides, changing its concentration to 10% triglycerides, 45% cholesterol, 22% phospholipid, and 25% protein.  Now, there is an intermediate step between the VLDL and LDL, but for simplicities sake we'll stick with the more general overview of what is taking place.

     

    If you have high LDL levels, an oxidation process takes place that leads to plaque development in your artery walls, damage to vessel linings, and heart disease.  Eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants, such as vitamin C and vitamin E may slow or inhibit this oxidation process.

     

    So, let's summarize.

     

    LDL and VLDL are both "lipoprotein packages" in your blood.  Both are considered "bad" types of cholesterol.

     

    They differ in what each package carries.

     

    LDL - "bad" cholesterol

    LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol carries mostly cholesterol, some protein, and minimal triglycerides throughout your circulation.  LDL should be less than 130 mg/dl, ideally less than 100 mg/dl.

     

    VLDL - "bad" cholesterol

    VLDL (very low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol contains minimal protein and mainly transports triglycerides.  VLDL should be less than 40 mg/dL.

     

    To prevent VLDL and LDL from clogging your arteries, follow a diet to lower cholesterol and consume antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables.

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    Be sure to sign up for the free e-course How to Lower Cholesterol in 8 Simple Steps.

     

    Let's see what you learned! Take Lisa's latest quiz and test your LDL and VLDL knowledge.

     

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