Preanalytical variability, including biological variability and patient preparation, is an important source of variability in laboratory testing. In this study, we assessed whether a regular light meal might bias the results of routine clinical chemistry testing.
We studied 17 healthy volunteers who consumed light meals containing a standardized amount of carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids. We collected blood for routine clinical chemistry tests before the meal and 1, 2, and 4 hr thereafter.
One hour after the meal, triglycerides (TG), albumin (ALB), uric acid (UA), phosphatase (ALP), Ca, Fe, and Na levels significantly increased, whereas blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and P levels decreased. TG, ALB, Ca, Na, P, and total protein (TP) levels varied significantly. Two hours after the meal, TG, ALB, Ca, Fe, and Na levels remained significantly high, whereas BUN, P, UA, and total bilirubin (BT) levels decreased. Clinically significant variations were recorded for TG, ALB, ALT, Ca, Fe, Na, P, BT, and direct bilirubin (BD) levels. Four hours after the meal, TG, ALB, Ca, Fe, Na, lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), P, Mg, and K levels significantly increased, whereas UA and BT levels decreased. Clinically significant variations were observed for TG, ALB, ALT, Ca, Na, Mg, K, C-reactive protein (CRP), AST, UA, and BT levels.
A significant variation in the clinical chemistry parameters after a regular meal shows that fasting time needs to be carefully considered when performing tests to prevent spurious results and reduce laboratory errors, especially in an emergency setting.