Monthly intra-individual variation in lipids over a 1-year period in 22 normal subjects

Clin Biochem. 1999 Jul;32(5):381-9. doi: 10.1016/s0009-9120(99)00030-2.


Objectives: Previous reports on biological variation in lipids differ widely in the time interval between sampling, the number of samples analyzed per patient and the total study period. The present investigation was carried out to determine monthly intra-individual variation in lipids over 1 year and to establish whether there was a consistent change in lipid values over the summer months. The importance of taking this variation into consideration during the assessment of risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) was also examined.

Design and methods: Cholesterol, triglycerides, HDL, apo A1, and apo B were measured at monthly intervals for 12 months in 22 healthy, free-living volunteers (11 females, 11 males) by standardized methods.

Results: When compared to analytical variation, biological variation was the dominant component of the intra-individual changes observed during the 1-year study period. As expected, triglycerides showed the greatest biological variation; the ratio of biological/analytical variation was 33.1. Much smaller ratios were observed for the other lipids measured in this study with values ranging from 4.2 to 6.8. Different subjects attained their maximum and minimum values in virtually every month of the year. There were significant reductions in cholesterol, HDL, LDL, and apo A1 in the summer months while triglycerides showed a non-significant increase and apo B a non-significant decrease during this period.

Conclusions: All the analytes showed considerable intra-individual variation. It is, therefore, important to measure lipids sequentially over several weeks to arrive at an average value for risk stratification for CHD.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lipids / blood*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Seasons


  • Lipids
  • Cholesterol