Clinically, lipoproteins are characterized according to the mass of the cargo that they carry, i.e., the mass ofcholesterol within them. This would be analogous to trying to approximate the number ofcargo ships in a fleet by evaluating the collective mass ofthe containers on the decks of the ships at a point in time, which would be accurate only if the ships were all the same size and nearly always carried the same volume of goods of uniform mass. The relationship would be less reliable if different ships had different capacity, or if ships were running under or over pattern, or even ifthe cargo itselfwere lighter or heavier than usual. In the same way, gauging the atherogenic potential of lipoproteins by estimating the collective mass ofcholesterol is not always straightforward. The relationship between lipoprotein particle number and cholesterol content varies widely, because the carrying capacity varies with the size of the lipoprotein, and each lipoprotein's internal ratio of TGs to cholesterol is altered by many factors.
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