Hypolipoproteinemia (or hypolipidemia) is the lack of fat in the blood.
Although quite rare, hypolipoproteinemia is a serious condition. Blood absorbs fat from food in the intestine and transports it as a combined package with proteins and other chemicals like cholesterol. Much of the fat goes straight into the liver for processing. The cholesterol, a waste product, ends up in the bile. The proteins act as vessels, carrying the other chemicals around. These packages of fat, cholesterol, and proteins are called lipoproteins.
Causes and symptoms
Low blood fats can be the result of several diseases, or they can be a primary genetic disease with other associated abnormalities.
- Malnutrition is a lack of food, including fats, in the diet.
- Malabsorption is the inability of the bowel to absorb food, causing malnutrition.
- Anemia (too few red blood cells) and hyperthyroidism (too much thyroid hormone) also reduce blood fats.
- Rare genetic conditions called hypobetalipoproteinemia and abetalipoproteinemia cause malabsorption plus nerve, eye, and skin problems in early childhood.
- Tangier disease, causes only the cholesterol to be low. It also produces nerve and eye problems in children.
Symptoms are associated more closely with the cause rather than the actual low blood fats.
Blood studies of the various fat particles help identify both the low and high fat diseases. These tests are often done after an overnight fast to prevent interference from fat just being absorbed from food. Fats and proteins are grouped together and described by density—high-density lipoproteins (HDL), low-density lipoproteins (LDL), and very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL). There are also much bigger particles called chylomicrons. Each contain different proportions of cholesterol, fats, and protein.
Supplemental vitamin E helps children with the betalipoprotein deficiencies. There is no known treatment for Tangier disease. Treatment of the causes of the other forms of low blood fats reverses the condition.
Ginsberg, Henry N., and Ira J. Goldberg. "Disorders Of Lipoprotein Metabolism." In Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, edited by Anthony S. Fauci, et al. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1997.
Cholesterol— A steroid alcohol found in animal cells and fluids.
Lipoprotein— Class of proteins that contain protein and lipid. The fundamental component of living cells.