In the recent years, triglycerides have come into focus alongside cholesterols as danger signs for one’s health, but many of us are still confused about what are triglycerides exactly. Simply put, triglyceride is the chemical name given to what we commonly call fat. Chemically, it is an ester which is formed when exactly three molecules of the various fatty acids react with glycerol. Though it is found in vegetable oils as well, it is more saturated in animal fats and these two are the prime sources of triglycerides. There are mainly three types of triglycerides:

  • Saturated triglycerides are called saturated because the concentration of the hydrogen atoms (attached with every carbon atom) is the highest in these fat molecules. As already mentioned it is found mostly in animal fats and know that it is the worst kind for your body because they can raise the level of LDL cholesterol very quickly.
  • Monounsaturated triglycerides lack two hydrogen atoms in the middle of the chemical structure and that is exactly what makes monounsaturated triglycerides from olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, avocados and other vegetable oils perfect for lowering LDL levels.
  • Polyunsaturated triglycerides are the healthiest among all the natural types of triglycerides as they have the least concentration of hydrogen atoms (lacking four or even more). It is the most efficient type among the unsaturated fats in the reduction of bad cholesterol. These omega-3 and omega-6 fats are found in fish oils from salmon, herring, trout and other fatty fishes.
  • Medium chain triglycerides (MCT) are triglycerides that are manufactured artificially and can simply be called man-made fat. The term medium chain is attached to this particular kind of lipid because of the arrangement of the carbon atoms within each molecule of the MCTs. Prepared from the laboratory processing of mainly palm and coconut oil; these are used for various medicinal purposes. The most common use for medium chain triglycerides is its use in the treatment of digestive problems and disorders like diarrhea, steatorrhea, celiac disease, liver problems etc. It is used more as a supplementary medication along with the other more conventional drugs generally used to deal with the particular problem. Athletes, sportsmen and bodybuilders around the world however, use it for a different purpose. They use it for its fat burning capacity in order to lose excess bodily fat and to add lean muscular mass in its place. In addition to the mentioned uses for medium chain triglycerides there are other places also where it is believed to be beneficial, for example, studies show that it can actually help patients suffering from Alzheimer’s.

Now that we know what triglycerides is, it is time to discuss what makes it so important. Cholesterol is also a kind of lipid produced by the liver, not unlike triglyceride, but they serve different functions in our body. Cholesterol is used to construct sex hormones, vitamin D, cells and certain kinds of salts, while triglycerides are the energy reserves of our body. Cholesterols can be divided into two types, the low density lipids (LDL) and the high density lipids (HDL). While the HDLs (good cholesterol) are healthy for the body, the LDLs (bad cholesterol) are considered extremely dangerous for the heart due to their tendency to clog arteries and blood vessels. Unfortunately, both LDL cholesterol and triglycerides pose a threat to one’s health (especially the heart) if their levels increase beyond the established safety marks. The Residual Risk Reduction Initiative Foundation have also confirmed that even the combination of high triglyceride levels and low HDL count can also contribute towards cardiac problems. Although the relation between triglycerides and cardiac diseases has not been clearly established, it is held that triglycerides can directly be responsible for a kind of heart problem known as atherosclerotic plaque. The plaque forms in the subendothelial areas near the arteries and triglycerides alone are responsible for this disease, completely independent of the effects of LDL cholesterols. It should be kept in mind that although high blood triglyceride is bad for you, it does serve a purpose of supplying you with energy when you need it. What this means is that although low triglyceride levels are preferred, if the level goes down too low, it should be read as a sign of malnutrition or malabsorption. Whether you have too low or too high triglyceride levels, it is best to consult a doctor as both the conditions are usually the result of some other medical condition that you may not even be aware of.