Triglycerides are the body’s main source of dietary fat. The liver can make triglycerides, but we also acquire them from the diet. They are found predominantly in meat, dairy and cooking oils. Triglycerides can be used by cells and tissues to produce energy or they can be stored as fat if they are not needed. High levels of triglycerides can lead to cardiovascular disease or pancreatitis if very high.
Triglycerides are a type of dietary fat found in meat, dairy products and cooking oils. When we eat, the triglycerides are absorbed by the small intestine and transported around the body via the bloodstream. Tissues take in the triglycerides where they are stored as fat or used to provide energy.
The liver makes triglycerides when you consume a higher number of calories than your body needs. The liver produces triglycerides from the excess energy and stores them as fat. The fat can then be used, if needed, during periods of starvation or exercise.1
After we eat, our triglyceride levels will naturally rise. Blood is also more likely to naturally clot after a fatty meal – that’s why you hear of people having heart attacks after eating monster fatty meals. Therefore, you should spread your intake of dietary fat intake throughout the day.
High triglyceride levels can increase the risk of developing chronic health conditions. One condition they can cause is coronary artery disease which can lead to the need for stent implantation. Coronary artery disease is the most common cause of death, globally. Coronary artery disease is caused by a mix of complex genetic and environmental factors. The main symptoms of coronary artery disease are:
Elevated triglycerides are usually present with low levels of circulating high-density lipoprotein (HDL), also known as good cholesterol. HDL removes excess bad cholesterol from the blood by transporting it to the liver where it can be removed from the body. High triglycerides can also be present with smaller, denser particles of bad cholesterol which can stick to the artery walls and speed up the development of blockages. These blockages can restrict blood flow and can dislodge causing a blockage in the brain or heart. Blockages can have dangerous effects including a heart attack or stroke.
Extremely high levels of triglycerides can leave you susceptible to pancreatitis. The pancreas is a small organ which helps with digestion and produces insulin. If it becomes inflamed this is known as pancreatitis. Symptoms can include:
Alcohol and being overweight are contributing factors for acute pancreatitis. Both can also cause high triglycerides, so if your triglycerides are extremely high you are at risk of the condition.
Making some changes to your lifestyle can help to maintain or lower your triglyceride levels. Alcohol can cause your triglyceride levels to rise, especially if you drink more than the guidelines state. In anyone who is susceptible to high triglycerides, just small amounts of alcohol can cause a rise. Eating a healthy balanced diet and taking part in more physical activity can all benefit your triglyceride levels.
Triglycerides can be lowered by incorporating a low-calorie diet. High triglycerides can be caused by being overweight or obese and so weight loss alongside a restricted food/calorie intake is beneficial. Although counting calories is a start, you should make sure that you don’t miss vital nutrients such as those found in fruit and vegetables.
Individuals who have metabolic syndrome such as type 2 diabetes may gain benefits from incorporating more whole grains into their diet. In one study, participants followed a 12-week whole grain cereal-based diet reduced their body’s response to insulin and triglycerides following a meal – both of which are risk factors for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Triglycerides are found in meat, dairy products and cooking oils. Some healthier swaps can help to keep your triglyceride level down:
Studies have shown that exercise can reduce high levels of LDL and triglycerides and cholesterol and increase the level of HDL. Individuals who already have high levels of triglycerides and LDL should:
If you don’t have high triglycerides or LDL and want to maintain your normal levels, you should:
Before commencing any new exercise regime, you should consult with your doctor first. They should be able to give you a health check and advise you with regards to which exercise may be most beneficial to you.
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 Heart UK. (2018). Triglycerides. Available at: https://heartuk.org.uk/health-and-high-cholesterol/triglycerides
 Daniel, D., Hardigan, P., Jawaid, A., Bhandari, R and Daniel, M. (2015). The Effect of Elevated Triglycerides on the Onset and Progression of Coronary Artery Disease: A Retrospective Chart Review. Cholesterol.
 Nikpay, M., Goel, A and Won, H, H et al. (2015). A Comprehensive 1000 Genomes-Based Genome-Wide Association Meta-Analysis of Coronary Artery Disease. Nat Genet: 49(10), pp 1121-1130.
 National Health Service. (2017). Coronary Heart Disease. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronary-heart-disease/#symptoms-of-chd
 Kota, S, K., Kota, S, K., Jammula, S., Krishna, S, V, S and Modi, K, D. (2012). Hypertriglyceridemia-Induced Recurrent Acute Pancreatitis: A Case Review. Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism: 16(1), pp 141-143.
 National Health Service. (2018). Acute Pancreatitis. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/acute-pancreatitis/
 Diabetes Digital Media LTD. (2018). Low Calorie Diets. Available at: https://www.diabetes.co.uk/diet/low-calorie-diets.html
 Giacco, R., Costabile, G and Della Pepa, G et al. (2013). A Whole-Grain Cereal-Based Diet Lowers Postprandial Plasma Insulin and Triglyceride Levels in Individuals with Metabolic Syndrome. Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases.
 Mann, S., Beedie, C and Jimenez, A. (2014). Differential Effects of Aerobic Exercise, Resistance Training and Combined Exercise Modalities on Cholesterol and the Lipid Profile: Review, Synthesis and Recommendations. Sports Med: 44, pp 211-221.