Triglycerides are the chemical form of fat that exists in food and in the body. Triglycerides can also be found in blood plasma along with cholesterol. Triglycerides come from fats that are eaten or in the body from energy sources such as carbohydrates. The release of triglycerides in the body are regulated by various hormones, allowing them to release needed energy between meals.
Why Are Triglycerides Harmful?
Triglycerides on their own are not harmful as everyone has them in their body, but an excess amount of them in the plasma can cause a condition called hypertriglyceridemia. This is dangerous because it is linked to a variety of medical conditions including coronary artery disease. Triglyceride levels are usually detected by plasma measurements, similar to measuring the amount of good and bad cholesterol in your body. The measurements are typically made after fasting overnight from food and alcohol. According to The National Cholesterol Education Program, a normal amount of triglycerides is less than 150 mg/dL, borderline high is 150 to 199 mg/dL, high is 200 to 499 mg/dL, and very high is 500 mg/dL or higher.
Dietary Treatment Goals
The American Heart Association (AHA) has released recommendations in regards to dietary treatment goals. This includes lifestyle habits and changes you can make at home that will prevent or treat hypertriglyceridemia. This includes cutting down on your daily calories if you’re currently overweight and aiming to reach an ideal body weight. You should focus on reducing the amount of calories, calories from fat, protein, carbohydrates, and alcohol. You also want to reduce the amount of saturated fat, cholesterol, and trans fats in your diet such as from oil, butter, fried foods, and processed foods. Reduce your alcohol as much as possible and quit drinking it altogether if you can. A small amount of alcohol consumption can lead to a significant change in your triglyceride levels. Rather than choosing meats that contain saturated fat such as beef or pork, substitute it for fish and other foods high in omega-3 fatty acids. This includes sardines, salmon, albacore tuna, herring, lake trout, and mackerel. Add the amounts of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or non-fat dairy products you consume. Lastly, you should increase your amount of physical activity if you currently live a sedentary lifestyle. The AHA recommends at least 30 minute of moderate-intensity workouts (such as walking, aerobic exercise, weight training) 4-5 days a week or more.