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Lipoprotein lipase (LPL) represents an important enzyme in the human body that metabolizes triglycerides. This enzyme breaks down molecules that transport fat from the intestines to the bloodstream, where the fat is converted into energy or stored. When a deficiency of lipoprotein lipase exists, fatty deposits might accumulate in the blood, which could lead to atherosclerosis and obesity.
A rare, genetic disorder called familial LPL deficiency prevents the proper breaking down of fats. This disease commonly appears in childhood and produces an inflamed pancreas and increases the size of the spleen and liver. Abdominal pain is a major symptom of the condition. Some patients also develop fatty, yellow skin lesions called xanthomas.
Symptoms of the disease include frequent bouts of pancreatitis, yellow skin resembling jaundice, and high triglyceride levels in the blood. Blood tests can reveal low lipoprotein lipase levels and the presence of the disease. There is no know cure for the disorder, and a low-fat diet represents the only treatment.
Research studies link lipoprotein lipase activity with levels of triglycerides and lipoprotein cholesterol levels. Studies on rats and rabbits show low levels of LPL increase the level of triglycerides in the blood. A deficiency also decreases the amount of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), which is considered healthy cholesterol.
Both conditions might increase the risk of coronary heart disease. Medical experts believe low-density lipoprotein (LDL) contributes to plaque build-up in the arteries. HDL might protect against the accumulation of fatty deposits in veins and arteries, especially in women with high LDL levels.
This enzyme might also be related to obesity and insulin regulation. Decreases in lipoprotein lipase activity might allow excess fat storage instead of converting it to energy used by the cells. Low levels of LPL might increase the oxidation of fat and inhibit the body’s ability to balance energy.
LPL is produced in tissues and muscles and plays an important role in how the body uses fat for energy. One study showed muscles only produce LPL when they are active. Even flexing a muscle might spark increases in the substance. Inactivity slows the metabolism and how the body metabolizes sugar and fat. This study suggests even minor exercise increases LPL levels in obese people.