burgerRemember that double cheese burger with the fries and large soda you ate the other day? The meal which contained about 900-1000 calories? Well, since you consumed more calories in that half hour than you burn in a typical 8 hour day, your body has to do something with those additional energy cells. The human body is extremely efficient this way. In the wild, hunters and gathers did not know where their next meal would come from and over time their bodies evolved a way to store energy to make it to the next meal.

The system the body developed was creating fat stores that could be later released and used for energy until the next time more food was procured. The substance that allows these energy cells to go to and from the fat tissues are called triglycerides.

Triglycerides are manufactured in the body by cells in the intestines and then released into the lymph system, not the blood stream. Interestingly, triglycerides are actually routed through the lymph system into the large blood vessels near the heart and are then mixed into the blood stream. The liver and fat tissues capture these triglycerides and store them. Any cell that needs energy can capture these triglycerides in the blood stream and break them down to make energy. When the entire body needs energy from fat stores, a hormone is released called glucagon which stimulates the activity of certain enzymes that break down triglycerides and make the energy they contain available to the cells.

What makes triglycerides so important to the medical community is that they are an excellent way to measure an individual’s risk of developing certain severe medical conditions, namely heart disease, hardening of the arteries, and stroke. All of these conditions are caused by fat and plaque deposits in various blood vessels that create blockages, restricted flow, and other complications.

Elevated triglyceride levels are also associated with metabolic syndrome and diabetes which are also conditions that increase the risk of heart disease and circulatory system disorders. It is not surprising that people who are overweight, have high Body Mass Indexes (>25), and have sedentary lifestyles tend to have elevated risks for both heart disease and diabetes. This is because both of these conditions can occur as the result of chronic over-eating.obesity

Because triglycerides are only produced in large quantities when there are more calories available during a meal than are needed for energy, this means that people who regularly over-eat produce much higher levels of triglycerides and in turn increase their risk of these diseases.

While this may seem strange, the body’s natural fat storage systems causing diseases, but it really isn’t. When doctors test triglyceride levels, they don’t measure the levels while you’re eating; they measure them after a fasting period to see how many triglycerides are being released into the blood stream at a baseline level un-affected by food. When the blood becomes over saturated with triglycerides, plaque buildup occurs in the blood vessels and the time clock starts counting down on heart attacks and strokes.

Triglyceride levels are typically not handled with medication. This is because triglyceride levels are first and foremost the result of poor lifestyle habits.

  • Some lifestyle factors that influence triglyceride levels include:
  • Excessive Carbohydrate consumption
  • Excessive Sugar consumption
  • Consumption of saturated fats, i.e. animal fats, dairy, etc.
  • High salt intake
  • Low Exercise level
  • Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Also, certain medications can increase triglyceride levels: birth control, estrogen, steroids, and diuretics.

  • The most important remedial action you can take to lower your triglyceride levels is to eat healthier foods. Specifically, reducing carbohydrate intake and increasing vegetable consumption. Also, reducing the consumption of saturated fats like dairy products. Reducing sugary beverages and sweets and instead consuming fresh fruits. Also, ensuring that you don’t overeat by counting calories and making sure you eat enough food to satisfy your caloric requirements but no more. In fact, actually under eating your caloric requirements has actually been shown to increase lifespan and reduce universal disease risk in nearly every animal study conducted.

    If you smoke or drink alcohol, stop. Both of these activities greatly increase the risk of heart disease, and when done in combination the effect is greatly compounded.

    exerciseThe importance of exercise cannot be overstated. Regular aerobic exercise has a myriad of health benefits that affect nearly every organ system, not excluding the heart and circulatory system. Even exercise on the order of a half hour every day has positive health benefits.

    In some rare cases, there are individuals who have genetic factors that make it very difficult to lower triglyceride levels through lifestyle changes alone. There are, however, many natural substances that can assist the body in reducing its triglyceride levels without resorting to medications.

    EPA-DHA, natural Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce triglyceride levels by increasing the availability of healthy free fatty acids in the blood stream.

    CoQ10, a natural chemical in the body that assists in energy production specifically by assisting the mitochondria.

    Carnitine, a compound made from the amino acids: lysine and methionine. It is essential for the breakdown of triglycerides to be used as energy in the cellular mitochondria.  

    With proper diet, exercise, and nutritional support, triglyceride levels and the risk of heart disease and related disorders can be effectively minimalized.