To answer the question, “what are triglycerides?” it must first be understood where they come from. It is a naturally occurring chemical compound (ester) which is obtained from glycerol and of course, the fatty acids. Understanding what triglycerides is will be of great help if you plan to keep the triglyceride levels below the danger mark. These lipids are stored both in vegetable oils as well as animal fats, but in the latter it’s more saturated than in the former. Triglycerides are actually means of reserving the excess calories and their high concentration in one’s blood is indicative of the fact that the person is on a diet that contains a lot of fatty food items. The similarities between cholesterol and triglycerides are that both of them form after the liver processes the same type of food, which is the fatty type; also both pose a serious threat (LDL in case of cholesterols) to one’s health if their content in one’s body exceeds the healthy mark. However, they are not the same kind of lipids; triglycerides are used to provide energy while cholesterol assists in cell and hormone construction. Medium chain triglycerides or MCTS are accepted as capable of burning excess energy in human beings and thus this fat burning capability of theirs has made them very popular among athletes, bodybuilders as well as the general public in the recent years. Medium chain triglycerides are usually made from the oil of coconut or palm through artificial processing in laboratories.
As mentioned earlier, triglyceride levels must be within the triglycerides normal range to ensure that the lipid count is not high enough to cause heart problems or other physical ailments. If in one deciliter of blood, the count is less than 150 mg of triglycerides, levels can be read as within the safety range. Healthy triglyceride levels can actually prove to be beneficial to one’s heart if the count is even well below 150mg/dL, that is if it’s at the 100mg/dL mark or slightly lower (which is also referred to as “optimal” triglyceride level in humans). Professional athletes and even those who are not, at times resort to drugs for bringing down their level of triglycerides to the optimal level, but it is certainly not recommended. Normal triglycerides count can be achieved without the aid of artificial drugs (unless you are suffering from some sort of a medical condition), simply by shifting to a better lifestyle and healthier diet. High triglycerides count in a person’s blood indicates that the person is consuming more calories than he/she is burning. Initially the excess triglycerides will be turned to fat and the person will become overweight or even obese with time. Left unchecked however, elevated triglycerides count in one’s blood may even lead to deadly health issues like the coronary heart disease.
Some of the causes of high triglycerides in humans are related to other medical conditions like:
- Diabetes – Although the facts are not beyond all considerations, it is held that diabetes and triglycerides are interconnected. Just as raised triglyceride levels can be responsible for one’s resistance to insulin and the resulting high blood sugar which in turn can lead to diabetes; untreated diabetes mellitus can also raise the level of triglycerides in blood as the excess glucose is eventually turned into triglycerides.
- Obesity – Being overweight or “fat” is directly linked to elevated triglycerides level as it is the triglycerides that are converted into fat for storage of energy. Someone who is not obese, but has increased levels of triglyceride is certainly heading towards obesity and someone who is already obese will surely have a considerably high count of triglycerides in his/her blood.
- Hypothyroidism – It has been proven and published that hypothyroidism is often responsible for raised triglyceride levels and certain other lipid abnormalities. This holds true especially for patients suffering from systemic sclerosis.
- Alcohol – Those who abuse their system with excessive alcohol consumption are most likely to have high levels of triglycerides in their blood. Alcohol can also work against your efforts to burn calories by slowing down the metabolism. If you are already overweight (which is a sign of having elevated triglyceride levels) then you should avoid drinking altogether as even occasional drinking can go against your goal of eliminating excess triglycerides from your blood.
- Kidneys – Kidney failures, kidney diseases and triglycerides are interlinked as well. It has been found that people with high counts of creatinine in their blood also have an elevated level of triglycerides. As an increase in blood creatinine levels is indicative of a malfunctioning kidney, experts hold the opinion that someone with high blood triglyceride levels is more susceptible to kidney diseases.
- Liver – In extreme cases of high blood triglyceride levels, the parenchymal cells might be severely affected; the condition is known as fatty liver and is found in people who have a blood triglyceride count of 500 mg/dL or higher.
- Genetic disorders – Familial Chylomicronemia can severely increase triglyceride levels in one’s blood. The enzymes necessary to process the blood triglycerides are usually absent or not produced in enough quantity to tackle the function well enough in patients suffering from this rare genetic disorder.
There are also medications that can raise the level of triglycerides too high to be considered safe at times. Estrogen, diuretics, beta-blockers, birth-control pills, Tamoxifen and especially steroids are known to raise triglyceride levels in us. Unfortunately, even if you are subject to any or multiple of the mentioned possible causes for high triglycerides, symptoms might not show up to alert you of the impending danger. The reason is that there are hardly any symptoms at all, except of course gaining excess bodily fat. That being said, there could be an acute and visible symptom of excess triglycerides in one’s body if the problem stems from a genetic disorder. You would be able to see xanthomas (fat depositions) just below your skin in that case.
As already mentioned, if the count is low, triglycerides are just naturally formed lipids that do not pose any threat to one’s health, provided of course, they are not too low. If your blood test reveals that you have lower triglycerides count in your blood than considered healthy, then it is either a result of malabsorption or malnutrition. If it is a case of malnutrition caused low triglycerides, diet is the key here. Although not applicable in all cases, a balanced diet may solve this problem. Malnutrition induced low triglycerides symptoms are the same as the symptoms exhibited by a person suffering from malnutrition, for example, lack of heat retention in one’s body (feeling cold), dry and papery skin as well as lack luster, brittle hair; lethargy etc. Malabsorption induced low triglycerides count in the blood can have more serious reasons behind it though. If your system is unable to extract and absorb important nutrients like fat, vitamins, proteins etc from the food you consume, then your triglycerides level will go down below the healthy mark and that condition is known as malabsorption. Digestive problems like Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease and certain types of cancer can lower triglycerides in one’s system and the symptoms are the same as that of the diseases itself. Apart from these two, low triglyceride levels can also at times result from hyperthyroid activities. Symptoms in this case are once again the same as the root cause, which include insomnia, irritability, instable heartbeat, tiredness, anxiety etc.
While dealing with triglycerides, diet is the most important thing that you must maintain whether you want to lower your level of triglycerides or to raise triglyceride levels. In case of high triglycerides, diet should consist of as less fat as possible, preferably below ten percent when it comes to saturated fat and below thirty percent of your overall daily consumption. A diet to lower triglycerides should be designed in such a way so as to include fish, fish oil, ground flax seeds, soy products, vegetables with dark green leaves, walnuts and other healthy fats. Most of these contain fat, but omega-3 fats contained in these food items actually help in lowering triglycerides and LDL cholesterol. Lowering triglycerides also requires a person to exercise along with consuming foods to lower triglycerides because maintaining one’s weight is the key here. Important things to keep in check if you want to reduce triglycerides are your sugar, oily food and alcohol consumption. Although the temptation might be there for you, it is advised to avoid drugs for reducing triglyceride levels unless of course, it is prescribed by a certified medical practitioner. If you do not have any contradictory medical conditions, choose to lower triglycerides naturally through exercise, weight management, proper dieting; exclusion of foods high in triglycerides, inclusion of omega-3 fats and dietary fibers and restraining from smoking.
However, someone with a low triglycerides count in his/her blood needs to have a different approach to the problem. The first thing to do in this case is to determine the problem and act accordingly. Crohn’s disease, Celiac disease as well as quite a few deadly diseases like HIV, AIDS, pancreatic cancer, lymphoma etc can lower the level of triglycerides in blood due to malabsorption. While dietary routine cannot help people much in such cases, in the instances of malnutrition induced low triglyceride, diet is the main key. The first thing to take into account is that the low triglyceride count is only a symptom of the main problem, which in this case is malnutrition. If you follow a properly balanced diet which is customized to your height, weight and specific needs, then the level of triglycerides in your blood is likely to become normal again. Also, eating food items that are particularly rich in carbohydrates and fats as well as alcohol consumption in a controlled manner would contribute to your venture and help you to raise triglyceride levels.