Healthcare provider explaining what is the function of lipids to patient

What is the function of lipids?

Written on March 2, 2023 by Gillian (Gigi) Singer, MPH, Sexuality Educator & Certified Sexologist. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

Table of contents

A lipid is defined as “any of various organic compounds that are insoluble in water. They include fats, waxes, oils, hormones, and certain components of membranes and function as energy-storage molecules and chemical messengers. Together with proteins and carbohydrates, lipids are one of the principal structural components of living cells” [1].

So what is the function of lipids? Lipids are a crucial component of a cell’s membrane and help regulate what goes is allowed into and out of the cell [2,3]. Additionally, they help to move and store energy, absorb vitamins, and make hormones [3].

Types of lipids

The three primary types of lipids are phospholipids, sterols, and triglycerides.

Triglycerides come from what we eat, can be saturated or unsaturated, and include omega fatty acids and trans fats [4]. These are fats found in the blood and are used for energy [5]. Cholesterol is a well-known example of triglycerides.

Phospholipids engulf cells to protect them and keep them healthy, kind of like a bullet-proof vest [4].

Sterols aid in controlling cell development and are a type of steroid.

Lipid levels

An Increased level of lipoproteins is called hyperlipoproteinemia, and the opposite is called hyperlipoproteinemia [2]. The incorrect assembly, breakdown, or transport of lipoprotein particles can lead to atypical cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood [2].

Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) is a lipid, also known as “bad cholesterol,” and it comprises most of the cholesterol in the body. It can increase the risk of heart disease, a heart attack, and/or stroke in excess by creating plaque buildup in blood vessels.

High-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL), also known as “good cholesterol,” helps to flush cholesterol from the body by absorbing it from the blood and transporting it to the liver. Additionally, It can decrease your risk of heart disease and stroke in excess.

Testing your lipid levels

To prevent heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke and/or monitor overall health, you or a healthcare provider can test your lipid levels.

Although a lipid panel can indicate if your levels are high, it may not identify the underlying cause. If your test results show abnormalities, you should seek guidance from a healthcare professional to determine the most appropriate strategy to manage your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Typically, treatment may involve medication, modifications to your diet and lifestyle, and regular monitoring.

Normal cholesterol ranges

After undergoing cholesterol testing, it is essential to have a benchmark for interpreting the results. According to healthcare providers, it is advisable to maintain HDL, LDL, and triglyceride levels within the following parameters.

For men, a normal range of HDL is between 40 to 60 mg/dL, while for women, it is between 50 to 60 mg/dL. The standard range for LDL is anything below 70 mg/dL to 129 mg/dL for individuals aged 20 and above. A triglyceride level below 150 mg/dL is considered normal by healthcare providers. A total cholesterol level of less than 200 mg/dL is considered normal and desirable by healthcare providers [6].

What to do when your LDL is high

You can make many practical life choices to lower your LDL levels, as reported in our other article, 4 evidence-based ways to lower LDL cholesterol levels.

  1. Exercise: “In numerous studies, regular exercise has proven to be quite effective at lowering high LDL cholesterol levels. Some discoveries in this area suggest that exercise can coax your skeletal muscles to burn lipids like LDL for fuel—instead of just glycogen (a form of glucose which muscles primarily use for energy).”
  2. Maintain a healthy body weight: “Obesity is a risk factor for higher-than-normal LDL levels—and particularly for increased levels of small dense LDL.”
  3. Avoid saturated fats and fried food: “Fried foods typically have a high amount of trans fatty acids (TFA), which elevates the body’s LDL level. Saturated fats can ramp up your body’s production of LDL, so reducing your consumption of saturated fats can lower LDL cholesterol levels. (Common sources of saturated fat include pizza, dairy-based desserts, and red meat.).”
  4. Quit smoking: “Many different studies have shown that cigarette smoking can hike up LDL levels. It’s possible that smoking causes higher levels of LDL because smoking contributes to insulin resistance.”

Everlywell’s At-Home Cholesterol & Lipids Test

With a small finger prick and the Everlywell at-home Cholesterol & Lipids Test, you can be on your way to measuring your total cholesterol, HDL, calculated LDL, and triglycerides.

This at-home lab test for cholesterol and lipids is similar to a typical lipid panel in that it examines total cholesterol, calculated LDL, HDL, and triglycerides. It's great for individuals who are keeping tabs on their cholesterol levels or seeking to understand their current lipid levels. This screening delivers straightforward outcomes for three crucial cholesterol indicators and triglycerides.

How to test lipids: a guide

HDL vs. LDL vs. triglycerides: what are the differences?

What is non-HDL cholesterol?


  1. Lipids. Encyclopædia Britannica. URL. Accessed February 27, 2023.
  2. Ahmed S, Shah P, Ahmed O. Biochemistry, lipids. National Center for Biotechnology Information. URL. Published May 8, 2022. Accessed February 27, 2023.
  3. What are lipids? Cleveland Clinic. URL. Accessed February 27, 2023.
  4. How to test lipids: A guide. Everlywell. URL. Accessed February 27, 2023.
  5. LDL and HDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Published October 24, 2022. Accessed February 27, 2023.
  6. How to understand cholesterol test results. Everlywell. URL. Accessed February 27, 2023.
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