Lipids and Triglycerides Explained
Whenever we hear people discuss healthy cholesterol levels, we usually hear the terms lipids and triglycerides. So what are they? Lipids are molecules that are not soluble in water and to give you an example, think fats, oils and waxy substances. The three important groups of lipids are neutral fats, the conjugated lipids and sterols. You may have heard all these terms when discussing your cholesterol.
Neutral fat is a combination of fatty acids and alcohol (like glycerol). One example of a neutral fat is triglycerides. It consists of an ester – formed when acid is condensed with alcohol – of three fatty acids and one glycerol molecule.
Triglycerides, though a lipid, are broken down by the body and used as a source of energy. In comparison, triglycerides give twice us much energy than carbohydrates. They are composed of three fatty acid molecules and one glycerol molecule.
Your triglyceride level measures a certain type of lipid in your bloodstream. Calories you eat that are not utilized as fuel by the body are instead made into triglycerides.
Triglycerides are kept in storage by the fat cells of your body.
Between meals, triglycerides are gradually released by the fat cells to be used as fuel. If you eat too many calories than your body can use, especially calories you take in from fat and carbohydrates, your level of triglycerides goes up and you can develop a condition known as “hypertriglyceridemia.”
When triglyceride levels in the blood exceeds the upper normal limit of 150mg/dl or 1.7mmol/l, the patient is at risk of hypertriglyceridemia.
Levels between 200 to 500 mg/dl or 2.2 to 5.6 mmol/l should already be of great concern as this can lead to fatty deposits in the arteries that can eventually result to heart disease.
Therefore, one way to avoid this is through a health diet and exercise. The best way to control your triglyceride level is to know what you should and should not eat. Triglycerides in a normal amount, is not bad for the body, but it’s when there is a higher than normal reading that you have to do something about it.
Difference Between Cholesterol And Triglycerides
Both cholesterol and triglycerides are types of fat in your body. Triglycerides are different from cholesterol in that they are used to store calories you don’t use for later use as cellular energy, while cholesterol helps build cell membranes and create some hormones of the body.
Neither type of fat is soluble in blood so they need to be carried around the bloodstream transported on lipoproteins.
Elevated Triglyceride Levels
No one knows the exact mechanism of action of cholesterol on the arteries but it has been shown that people with high triglyceride levels are at risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease. Very high levels of triglycerides (above 1000 mg/dL) can result in pancreatitis, which can be very dangerous.
Elevated levels of triglycerides often mean you have other risk factors for heart disease, such as being overweight and suffering from metabolic syndrome, which is a heart-damaging disease in which you have high blood pressure, excess belly fat, diabetes, and high triglyceride levels.
Elevated triglyceride levels can be seen in type 2 diabetes that is not in good control and can be seen in hypothyroidism, certain genetic lipid conditions, and kidney disease or liver disease. Some medications will raise the triglyceride levels, such as steroids, diuretics, birth control pills, and beta-blockers.
How Can Triglycerides Be Lowered?
There are few medications available to reduce triglyceride levels. The best choices are changing lifestyle choices in order to reduce triglyceride levels. These include the following:
- Reducing calories. If you eat too many calories, the excess goes to making triglycerides that are stored in fat cells.
- Losing weight. If you can lose 5-10 pounds, you will lessen the triglyceride level in the bloodstream. This will lower your risk of heart disease.
- Avoid sugary foods or foods that are highly refined. Foods that are high in sugar or are made with white flour will raise triglyceride levels.
- Eating healthy fats. Instead of eating saturated fats, you should instead eat monounsaturated fats seen in olive oil, canola oil, and peanut oil. Eat fish containing omega 3 fatty acids and your triglyceride levels will be decreased.
- Cutting back on alcohol. Alcohol has a lot of sugar and calories in them, which raise triglyceride levels when taken in excess.
- Get regular exercise. Try exercising some kind of aerobic activity for thirty minutes per day on as many days of the week as you can. Exercise has been known to lessen the triglyceride levels and raises the HDL cholesterol levels.
Lowering Triglycerides With Diet
The level of triglycerides in the body is affected by the amount of carbohydrates due to its effect on the blood sugar level. The greater the amount of carbohydrates you eat, the greater the possibility of high triglyceride levels in the blood. This is due to the fact that excess carbohydrates in the body are stored as fats; for that reason, it is important to minimize foods that are rich in carbohydrate in the diet.
As carbohydrate is the main source of energy that the body uses, total removal of carbohydrates in the diet is strictly not advised; instead, just keep your carbohydrate-rich food to a minimum. Examples of carbohydrate-rich foods are starches like bread and potatoes, bananas, beans, rice, oatmeal, pasta, sugar, chocolates, non-fat milk and candies.
- Oils rich in trans-fat and saturated fats as well as alcoholic beverages can significantly increase blood triglyceride levels. Strictly avoid any form of alcoholic beverage since alcohol, even in small amounts, can increase triglyceride levels.
- Foods rich in omega-3, fish oil and green tea extracts can help lower blood triglyceride levels. Examples of food rich in omega-3 are fish, crabs, shrimps and scallops. Take vitamins with niacin as this can also contribute in lowering blood triglyceride. The most important part is to watch what you eat.
We only acquire triglyceride through our diet hence that should be the first step in controlling its level in our body. Food rich in carbohydrates and glucose should be kept at a minimum if you have high triglyceride levels. Exercise regularly because obesity is the main cause of hypertriglyceridemia, as we said earlier.
We should also try and remove those excess fats stored in our body because those are the triglycerides in its hibernation state.
You can eat the right foods and take natural supplements that can help lower triglyceride levels. Most of all discipline is the most important step to lower blood triglycerides and maintain good heart health.