The NLA was created out of the success established by the Southeast Lipid Association (SELA), which was formed in 1997 by a group of pioneering lipid researchers and clinicians from the Southeastern United States. By December 2000, the SELA Board of Directors voted for a national association to be formed to promote specialization in the area of Clinical Lipidology.
The Board felt strongly that regional societies similar to SELA should be established to expand its education-focused agenda to a wider number of lipid specialists representing all areas of the country.
These regional entities would form the governance of the "National Lipid Association." In 2002, the National Lipid Association was officially incorporated in Florida as a 501(c)(6) non-profit professional membership organization. Since then, the NLA has formed a total of five regional chapters representing more than 3,500 members from across the United States (Southeast Chapter, Northeast Chapter, Midwest Chapter, Southwest Chapter, Pacific Chapter).