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Updated 10th August 2022

Is there a link between cholesterol levels and Long COVID?

Written byZOE Editorial Staff

    According to ONS data, Long COVID affects over 2 million people in the UK and 71% of this group report that Long COVID negatively affects their daily lives. We wanted to investigate to see if there was a link between levels of “bad” cholesterol and Long COVID.

    What was the research?

    Our team of researchers, along with King’s College London, looked at data from over 4,700 ZOE Health Study Contributors. We were able to see that people who had high levels of harmful fats in their blood were more likely to experience Long COVID symptoms and other illnesses. 

    Who did we test?

    We looked at data from four groups: 

    • people who had asymptomatic COVID 

    • people who had been ill for fewer than 14 days after catching COVID 

    • people who had been ill for longer than 28 days after catching COVID 

    • people who had been experiencing COVID-like symptoms for over a month but had tested negative.  

    What did we find?

    We tested the blood of all groups and in the asymptomatic group found a pattern associated with lower risk of heart attack and diabetes. Those with long-lasting symptoms had a higher concentration of low density cholesterol (LDL or “bad” cholesterol), associated with a greater risk of heart disease. 

    We found there was no difference in the profiles of those experiencing long-term COVID symptoms and those who had long-term symptoms but had tested negative for COVID. 

    What do the experts have to say?

    Dr Claire Steves, co-author from King’s College London, said: 

    “We were able to look at whether changes we saw were specific to COVID-19 or whether they reflected something more general about prolonged symptoms.

    What is interesting is that we saw the same pattern of harmful fats in people with long symptoms in COVID and non-COVID disease. We think this might shed light on the experience of long COVID, and other conditions, where people take time to recover from illness.”

    You can read the full paper online.

    Check out this article to read more about the different types of cholesterol and what levels are healthy for your age

    Research like this is only possible through the data insights we get from your regular logging in the Health Study app

    Help science and keep logging!