Triglycerides – Are they Problematic?


Did your doctor indicate that you have high triglyceride levels in your blood? Have you wondered what they are and what you need to do to reduce them. Read this article, which could answer all the possible questions you have regarding triglycerides.

What exactly are triglycerides?

Just like cholesterol, triglycerides are a major lipid (fat) in the bloodstream. Triglycerides supply energy to the body. They either meet the immediate energy requirement of the body or are stored as fats for future energy requirements.

Triglycerides Vs. Cholesterol

The main aspect that clearly differentiates triglycerides from cholesterol is that triglycerides are the lipids/fats which are broken down to make energy for cells, and cholesterol is the fat used to synthesize essential hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and stress hormone like cortisol and also to maintain cell membranes, absorption of fat soluble vitamins.

Types of triglycerides


  • Saturated: These form the biggest dietary source for bad cholesterol.
  • Mono-unsaturated: Foods with high levels of mono-unsaturated fats include olive oil, peanut oil, vegetable oil. These are relatively good and lower the blood cholesterol levels.
  • Polyunsaturated: These are present in vegetable oil, fish like salmon and known to lower bad cholesterol levels.

Foods that contain triglycerides

  • Fats: These are predominantly found in fried foods, cookies, muffins and snack cakes.
  • Sugars: Constituents of beverages, fruit drinks, chocolates, jelly. These are known to raise triglyceride levels.
  • Starch: Foods like refined breads, potatoes contain high amounts of carbohydrates, that are converted to triglycerides.

Elevated triglyceride levels are problematic

While some amount of triglycerides are required for the body, elevated triglycerides are a risk factor for coronary artery diseases. Very high levels may lead to acute pancreatitis (inflamed pancreas)

Conditions which lead to increase/decrease of triglyceride levels

  • A diet rich in saturated fats increases triglyceride levels
  • Disorders such as diabetes mellitus, kidney disease (renal failure) and hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone level) increases triglyceride levels
  • Obesity – overweight due to accumulation of excess fat increases triglyceride levels.
  • Excess alcohol consumption is also known to increase these levels

Problems associated with high triglyceride levels

  • Atherosclerosis – Accumulation of bad cholesterol in the arteries leads to narrowing of artery walls.
  • Heart failure – It is generally referred to as heart attack where there is decrease in the levels of HDL (good cholesterol) and more of bad cholesterol.
  • Hyper-triglycerdemia – It is a condition where there is accumulation of triglycerides in the blood stream, ultimately leading to heart attack.

Diagnosis: Lipid Profile Test

The lipid profile is a group of tests to check the levels of triglycerides, total cholesterol, HDL and LDL cholesterol. This test is used to assess a person’s risk of cardiovascular diseases.

According to National Cholesterol Education Program, triglyceride levels should be

Normal Less than 150mg/dL
Border-line 150-199mg/ dL
High 200-499mg/dL
Very High 500mg/dL or higher

Control/Prevention

  • Triglyceride levels can be beneficial as effective motivation for healthy lifestyle
  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day
  • Take low fat containing foods, rich in fiber like leafy vegetables – fibre bind with triglycerides and eliminate them from body
  • Avoiding high sugar foods like beverages and chocolates
  • Eating fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon
  • Avoiding smoking, alcohol consumption
  • Managing coexisting health conditions such as diabetes or hypertension

Diet recommendations

  • Oats-They contain soluble fibre which takes more time to digest, glucose is not released immediately into the body, thereby reducing sugar levels.
  • Brown Rice – Helps lower cholesterol levels in the body
  • Fibrous vegetables – leafy vegetables- contain low calories which help in decreasing triglyceride levels.

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