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To Fast or Not To Fast? That is the Question for Health Screenings

Posted Jan 24 2013 12:39pm

Fasting Health Screening

For companies considering hosting on-site health screenings, one of the most commonly asked questions is about fasting vs. non-fasting lipid testing.

Traditionally, most doctors will tell you: for accurate results, you must fast for at least eight hours before a lipid profile. But a recent large study in Canada showed that cholesterol levels aren't radically different in people who ate compared to those who fasted before their blood was drawn. The study, which was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in November 2012, suggests that fasting for routine lipid level determinations is largely unnecessary.

While both types of lipid testing provide results concerning total cholesterol levels, there are some items HR and health promotion professionals should consider when choosing health screening tests.  

Pros 

Each day, the normal range for blood sugar and lipids changes hour to hour depending on the food and drink consumed. By requiring fasting, you are getting a baseline sugar and lipid value that is not influenced by a recent meal.

Fasting fingerstick tests also provide two additional cholesterol results that identify LDL and triglyceride levels. Measuring these leves help determine an employee's risk of developing heart disease. A high triglyceride level may lead to atherosclerosis, which increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. A high triglyceride level may also cause inflammation in the pancreas.

Also, if you want to offer a venipuncture blood draw, then a 12 hour fast is required.

Cons

The requirement to fast before a cholesterol check can be a major inconvenience and many employees may forget to fast. Plus, a growling stomach can make for a rough start to the day.

Another consideration is scheduling the health screening, when you offer fasting, you are limited to the time of day you can offer screenings because most employees won't want to fast past 11 a.m.

Many experts tend to agree, in most cases, the benefits of non-fasting lipid tests generally outweighed the drawbacks. Here at TotalWellness, the majority of our clients still prefer a fasting health screening. Often, companies will provide both fasting and non-fasting screening options.

Ultimately, it comes down to preference but this study adds to growing evidence that de-emphasizes the fasting period typically recommended before a cholesterol test.

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