Last week we talked about about cholesterol and its treatment. When you doctor talks about cholesterol in the same breath he will talk about triglycerides. Triglycerides are not very complicated. They are fat that is found in the bloodstream. Triglycerides are also the main component of dietary vegetable oils and animal fats. So triglycerides are the most common fats in our foods. Triglycerides are made up of glycerol and three fatty acid molecules.
As the main form of fat in the body you can feel your triglycerides stored around your stomach and your hips when you pinch that inch. Triglycerides can also be made from carbohydrates and stored as fat in the body.
Triglycerides are eaten in the diet then transported through the blood for storage or converted into energy. For this transportation to take place the triglycerides are absorbed by the intestines and broken down and repackages with cholesterol and chylomicrons. The chylomicrons allow fat to transport through the water in the body. Think of putting oil and water together and you will notice they won’t mix. The chylomicron allows the triglyceride to transport though the body and mix with the water in the blood. Different tissues can remove the chylomicron and free the triglyceride for an energy source.
Fat cells and liver cells can synthesize and store triglycerides in the body. Triglycerides cannot move through the cell membrane, so in order to obtain energy from triglycerides they are broken down into free fatty acids and a glycerol molecule. The brain itself can’t use fatty acids as energy. The brain uses glycerol and converts it to glucose which can cross the blood brain barrier.
What are High Levels of Triglycerides?
The American Heart Association guidelines for triglycerides are:
- Less than 151 is the normal range and low risk.
- 151-199 is slightly above normal.
- 200-499 is some higher risk.
- Over 499 is very high with high risk.
What are Risks of High Triglycerides?
High triglycerides can lead to heart disease. Triglycerides seem to complicate risk factors in people with high bad cholesterol (LDL) and low good cholesterol (HDL). People with diabetes and higher triglycerides are at a greater risk for heart disease. Very high triglycerides are also a risk and a cause of pancreatitis when over 499.
Triglycerides and Metabolic Syndrome
It is thought that about 25% of the population in the USA has metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is defined by high triglycerides, abdominal obesity, low HDL, high blood pressure and insulin resistance. We do know that metabolic syndrome shows increased risk for heart disease. But it also increases risk of diabetes and rheumatoid disease.
In metabolic syndrome the patient suffers from insulin resistance. As a result it takes higher levels of insulin in the body to accomplish the same tasks. Insulin tells the cells in the body to start producing triglycerides and to stop breaking them down resulting in higher levels of triglycerides blood levels.
Foods that increase triglyceride levels
Sugars in the form of sucrose and fructose are known to raise triglycerides especially in men. Glucose and fructose are converted into triglycerides in the body and result in increased levels.
Alcohol is also known to raise triglyceride levels. Excessive alcohol consumption is a well-known cause of elevated triglycerides.
Caffeine may also cause triglycerides to rise. One study showed a reduction by as much as 25% by abstaining from caffeine.
Alternative Treatments of High Triglycerides.
First consideration is diet and exercise. If you are overweight then weight loss should your number one goal. The Mediterranean diet is an excellent start, but make sure to cut back on alcohol, fructose and sucrose to keep the triglycerides low. Also abstinence from any caffeine will help to lower the cholesterol.
Pantethine is also used to lower cholesterol. Pantotheine is a form of pantothenic acid and is a part of fat metabolism. Dosages have ranged from 600-1200 mg/ day.
Fish Oil has lowered triglycerides in a number of studies. Dosages in the studies ranged from 4-18 grams/day.
Niacin also used in the treatment of high cholesterol also helps to lower triglycerides in dosages of 1.5-3.0 grams/day.
Before starting any regime you should consult with your doctor.. The most important change you can make is a lifestyle change. Change diet and exercise before anything else as this is the most important change you can make.