What are lipids?

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The page below is a sample from the LabCE course Pharmacology of Antihyperlipidemic Medications for Laboratory Professionals. Access the complete course and earn ASCLS P.A.C.E.-approved continuing education credits by subscribing online.

Learn more about Pharmacology of Antihyperlipidemic Medications for Laboratory Professionals (online CE course)
What are lipids?

Lipids are biological molecules that serve numerous important functions in the body. The importance of lipids extends literally to the cellular level. Important lipid functions include:
  • Lipids make up the majority of the cellular membrane and their properties help determine what can enter and exit the cell.
  • So-called "steroid hormones" such as corticosteroids, testosterone, and estrogen are lipids.
  • Lipids can be broken down and used as energy if the body is not getting enough energy from dietary sources.
  • Lipid accumulation in our bodies serves as a method of heat retention.
  • In the nervous system, lipids insulate nerve fibers to enhance nerve conduction.
As you can see, lipids are in innumerable places and are essential to the normal functioning of the body. Unfortunately, lipids are also involved in disease states that often have deadly consequences.

For the purposes of this course, lipids will be classified into one of the following categories:
  1. Fatty acids
  2. Triglycerides
  3. Phospholipids
  4. Cholesterol
While this presentation will provide a brief review of all lipid types, there will be a focus on cholesterol and associated disease states, medications, and implications for laboratory testing.