Triglycerides and Heart Health

Triglycerides are fatty substances that circulate in the blood and can be stored in fat cells.  They come from the foods you eat and can also be made by the body to store extra calories.   Too many calories of any kind of food will be stored as triglycerides in the body’s fat cells for use later.  Healthy blood levels of triglycerides are below 150mg/dl.  

Cholesterol levels, particularly LDL values, have been a major factor in determining heart disease risk.  Determining who will get heart disease based on lab values has been a challenge though, and there are plenty of cases that cause observers to scratch their heads and wonder why a friend or relative with seemingly little risk turned out to have clogged arteries requiring surgery.  High triglycerides appear to increase a person’s risk of heart disease even when cholesterol values are normal.  I take some comfort in this!  Although my cholesterol is elevated, my triglyceride levels are consistently around 45.

The mechanisms involved in the increased risk are not entirely understood, and several factors are probably involved.  For one, elevated triglyceride levels are thought to contribute to insulin resistance and diabetes, both risk factors for heart disease.  Excess bodyfat is also a risk factor, and being overweight is often associated with high triglycerides.

Consumption of too many calories, particularly sugary carbohydrate foods (typical sweets and snack foods), appear to raise triglyceride levels, while diets consisting of high quality carbohydrates (whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes) combined with lean protein and healthy fats are associated with lower levels.

Sound like just another reason to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and limit saturated fats and sweets?  Bingo!!  Did you really need another reason?


2 responses to “Triglycerides and Heart Health

  1. good info. but, how if my excess calorie comes from good nutrients such as protein or carb (not sugar), will it raise my trig? thanks

    • kimthedietitian

      Under normal circumstances, healthy sources of carb and protein will not elevate triglycerides. Concentrated sugars are the problem.

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