Triglycerides are the most common type of fat digested in the body and can be either consumed in the diet or produced in the body. They normally circulate in the bloodstream to supply energy to cells and are stored in body fat as an emergency store of energy.
If there are excessive levels of triglycerides in the body, the level of triglycerides circulating in the bloodstream and stored in body fat elevates and obesity becomes more common. This is linked to an increased risk of other health conditions such as cardiovascular disease.
Triglycerides are utilized in the body by offering a source of energy to cells that require it. They are a normal component of the blood and are naturally stored in fat deposits. However, when present in excess triglycerides can cause problems in the body and lead to serious diseases.
High levels of triglycerides are associated with a group of disorders collectively known as metabolic syndrome, which increases the risk of an individual being affected by diabetes, stroke or cardiovascular disease.
Triglycerides act as secondary energy reserves for the body. Our body primarily depends on carbohydrates for its energy requirements. However, when there is increased demand for energy, triglycerides are broken down into fatty acids to generate energy. For instance, during prolonged physical activity or fasting, oxidation of fatty acids takes place to meet the increased energy demands of the body.
What are the normal levels of triglycerides in the body?
Triglyceride levels are usually measured whenever you have a blood test called a Lipid Profile. Everyone over 20 years should have their cholesterol checked at least every 5 years. Your doctor can check your cholesterol and triglyceride levels by taking a sample of blood, which is sent to a lab for testing. The Lipid Profile shows your triglyceride level, total cholesterol level, HDL cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels.
Blood triglyceride levels are normally high after you eat. Therefore, you should wait 12 hours after eating or drinking before you have your triglyceride levels tested. Many other factors affect blood triglyceride levels, including alcohol, diet, menstrual cycle, time of day and recent exercise.
For adults, triglyceride test results are categorised as follows:
For newborns to age 9:
- Desirable: Less than 150 mg/dL
- Borderline high: 150 to 199 mg/dL
- High: 200 to 499 mg/dL
- Very high: Greater than 500 mg/dL
For ages 10-19 years:
- Acceptable: Less than 75 mg/dL
- Borderline high: 75-99 mg/dL
- High: Greater than 100 mg/dL
For young adults older than 19 years:
- Acceptable: Less than 90 mg/dL
- Borderline high: 90-129 mg/dL
- High: Greater than 130 mg/dL
What are the causes of high triglyceride levels?
- Acceptable: Less than 115 mg/dL
- Borderline high: 115-149 mg/dL
- High: Greater than 150 mg/dL
A person who consumes high calorie diet is likely to suffer from too much triglyceride in blood. Unused carbohydrates and fats (extra calories) from ingested food are immediately converted into triglycerides, as body tends to store fat for future use. Various hormones regulate the process of release of triglycerides as an energy source in between food servings. Here is a list of causes of high triglyceride levels:
- Lack of exercise
- Low protein high carb diet
- Alcohol abuse
- Certain medicines like diuretics, beta blockers
- Genetic factors
- Certain diseases like Cushing's syndrome, undiagnosed diabetes, heart disease, liver cirrhosis, uncontrolled diabetes, kidney problems, hypothyroidism, etc.
- Bad eating habits like overeating, late night snacking, skipping meals, eating large portions of meals at a time, consuming lots of sugary, starchy foods, and food rich in saturated and trans fats like fried foods, fast food, etc.
A slight increase in triglycerides in the body may not exhibit any symptoms. Elevated levels of triglycerides can lead to cardiovascular illnesses, strokes, xanthoma and pancreatitis.
How to lower triglycerides levels?
- Avoid foods containing sugar
- Avoid alcoholic beverages as they contain sugar
- Quit smoking
- Avoid high intake of simple carbohydrates
- Follow a high fibre diet
- Avoid sweets, desserts, sweetened juices, etc.
- Fish are rich in omega 3 essential fatty acids which help lower the levels of triglycerides
- Those who lead a sedentary lifestyle may suffer from high triglycerides levels. Regular exercise helps lower the quantity of triglycerides.
- Avoid eating heavy meals at a time try to enjoy small servings at regular intervals. Avoid late night eating.
Having triglycerides within the normal range is an important sign of health. Triglycerides are essential for proper functioning of the body as they provide energy. Periodical checking of cholesterol and triglycerides levels is essential as regular monitoring helps detect the increasing levels immediately.