Blood fats and dietary fats

Nutritive substances (“structural fat


Function of fats

  • Nutritive substances (“structural fat”)
    • Protection for organs (among others)
    • Related parts and layers of tissue
  • Energy store (“storage fat”)
    • Excess or deficiency can often be diagnosed by sight
    • Can be measured on weight scales
    • Possible diseases: obesity, bulimia, anorexia
  • Components of hormones, various metabolic functions


  • Directly from food (“essential fatty acids” only)
  • Manufactured in the body from smaller molecules
  • Fats can be ingested or manufactured in quantities that are too big or too small

Blood fats

  • Rough classification: cholesterol (HDL/LDL) and triglycerides (neutral fat)
  • Concentration can be measured by blood tests
  • Contained in cell membranes
  • Precursor for hormones – including the sex hormones
  • Raw material for bile acids (important for fat digestion)
  • Water-insoluble (therefore bound to proteins in the blood)
    • High-density lipoproteins (combinations of fat and proteins) (HDL)
    • Low-density lipoproteins (LDL)
  • LDL (“bad cholesterol”)
    • Broken down in liver
    • If percentage in blood is too high: broken down too slowly, excess builds up
    • Excess LDL: stored in the walls of arteries, leads to arteriosclerosis (“arterial calcification”), high blood pressure, etc.
  • HDL (“good cholesterol”)
    • Protects against arteriosclerosis
    • Absorbs fat from cells – even from artery walls – and transports them to the liver
    • “Disposal” form of cholesterol
Triglycerides or neutral fat
  • Absorbed from food
  • Involved in causing arteriosclerosis
  • Main component of human adipose tissue (energy reserves)
  • Supplier of energy for long-term physical performance
Total cholesterol or LDL is increased by:
  • Genetic factors
  • Excessive intake of saturated fatty acids (see above)
    • Easily converted into cholesterol in the body
  • Too much cholesterol in the diet
Triglyceride levels are increased by: 
  • Excessive intake of animal fats or saturated fatty acids (associated with obesity)
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Excessive consumption of sugar/carbohydrates and protein
    • If these are not needed, they are converted into fat and stored as such in the body
  • Lack of exercise
  • Family history
  • Lipid metabolic disorders

Causes and treatment

Dietary fats and oils

  • Consist mainly of fatty acids (with different levels of saturation)
    • Saturated fatty acids
    • Polyunsaturated fatty acids
    • Monounsaturated fatty acids
  • A “healthy” diet is high in unsaturated fatty acids and low in saturated fatty acids
  • For general recommendations, see “Healthy diet”
Saturated fatty acids
  • Percentage in diet is too high (general problem in Central Europe)
  • Easy to recognise as they are solid at room temperature
  • Butter, cream, hard cheese (also fondue)
  • Meat and sausage meat
  • Coconut and palm oil
Polyunsaturated fatty acids
  • “Essential” (i.e. have to be ingested with food)
  • Various metabolic functions (e.g. reduction of triglyceride level)
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: anti-inflammatory effect, linseed and rape oil, walnuts, oily fish (e.g. salmon, anchovies)
  • Omega-6 fatty acids: sunflower, soya, maize germ and safflower oil as well as most brands of margarine
Monounsaturated fatty acids
  • Should form the main component of the daily fat intake
  • Reduction of LDL cholesterol
  • In olive oil, seeds, nuts
Trans fatty acids
  • These are the “bad guys”
  • They are unsaturated fatty acids
  • Formed by partial hydrogenation (industrial)
  • Increased risk of cardiovascular diseases
  • Intake via food is difficult to control
    • Packaging labels usually don't indicate percentage
    • Indications that they may be there: label states “partially hydrogenated fats”

Therapy approach

  • Objective: reduction of blood fat content
  • Change in diet (nutritional advice, if needed)
  • If it can't be reduced enough: medication (statins, fibrates or cholesterol inhibitors)

What can I do myself?

  • For general recommendations, see “Healthy diet”
  • Be careful of fat composition of food (in particular if there are risk factors for cardiovascular diseases)
  • Read food labels
    • Low-fat products with beneficial fat composition are better (low in animal fats)
    • Avoid foods containing partially hydrogenated fats
  • Regular exercise

Get a personal Preventive Care Recommendation now.

When to see a doctor?

  • For regular monitoring of blood fat levels if:

Further information

Cardiovascular diseases

Schweizerische Herzstiftung (Swiss Heart Foundation)


Schweizerische Adipositas-Stiftung SAPS (Swiss Obesity Foundation)

Selbsthilfe Schweiz (Self-Help Support Switzerland)

Schweizerische Gesellschaft für Ernährung SGE (Swiss Society for Nutrition)


blood fats and dietary fats, lipids, cholesterol and triglycerides, dietary fats, triglycerides, blood fats

Exclusion of liability

CSS offers no guarantee for the accuracy and completeness of the information. The information published is no substitute for professional advice from a doctor or pharmacist.