Lipids are a group of molecules consisting of fats, oils, waxes, certain vitamins, hormones and most of the non-protein membrane of cells. They play important roles in our bodies normally to our benefit but when the way we use them is abnormal there can be harmful consequences as well. At one time it was believed that lipids were only involved in storing energy and making up parts of the cell walls within our bodies but we now realize that they store energy, make up cell walls through manufacturing cholesterol and lipid layers of membranes, are involved in making prostaglandins (hormones that are made at the site of a problem to trigger healing) and their relatives that mediate inflammation, clotting of blood, fever, and pain. Lipids also act as messengers within the body, and help maintain temperature through layers of brown fat ( a specialized type of fat that generates heat). Most lipids are manufactured within the body but there are a few that are essential within our diet. Lipids are also normally attached to a protein (lipoprotein) to be transported through the blood.
Since lipids are used throughout our bodies for many critical functions it creates significant problems when they are overproduced, incorrectly manufactured, stored inappropriately, or not broken down correctly. These are the lipid metabolism disorders they can vary from rare genetic disorders that disrupt the healthy production, use or storage of lipids to the more common disorders of triglycerides (which primarily store energy in fat and muscle cells) and cholesterol (which makes up cell membranes, steroid hormones, signal molecules, and part of bile) that have the biggest effect on the largest number of people. Excess levels of cholesterol and triglycerides are directly related to atherosclerosis and can damage any artery in the body resulting in damage to and possibly destroying virtually any organ. This has a huge effect on our lives through disability and even death. Some of these can be treated via correct diet and exercise and some will require medications as well. The types of lipid disorder that cause the most illness, disability and death are LDL-hypercholesterolemia, hypertriglyceridemia, mixed hyperlipidemia, and low HDL cholesterol concentration. Although there are some visible symptoms of these disorders they are not always present and may only present when the illness is severe and difficult to control. It is important to have blood tests done periodically based on factors such as diet and family history that we need to discuss with a health care provider to determine the best schedule and treatment options. Reduction in cholesterol to healthy levels has been shown to improve health, reduce organ damage, and extend life especially when it is controlled early and kept at healthy levels.
Further information on specific types of lipid metabolism disorders can be found at the following links. Please do not mistake information from this blog or the following links for medical recommendation or advice about treating lipid metabolism disorders, that always needs a health care professional’s examination and recommendations.
Low HDL Cholesterol
Detailed review of Lipid Metabolism Disorders