Increased triglycerides: causes, symptoms and natural remedies
Triglycerides are the most common type of fat in the human body and are found in the blood. The body converts all the calories in food that it doesn't need into triglycerides, which stores in fat cells and releases between meals when it needs energy. If triglycerides accumulate in excess in the body, it causes hypertriglyceridaemia.
Triglycerides are fats (lipids) in our blood that give energy to the body and whose excess is stored in the fat cells of the body, so that it can be used when needed. These calories that the body does not immediately need come from the diet – from butter, oils, animal fats, alcohol or sweets.
At a normal level, these fats are essential to the body and are an important measure of heart health, along with blood pressure and cholesterol levels: high triglyceride levels are associated with an increased risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke, especially among people with low "good"/HDL cholesterol levels and those suffering from type 2 diabetes. The good news is that lifestyle changes and the call for natural treatments can decrease triglycerides – but for that you need to know what level they have, doing regular medical tests (because increased triglycerides have no symptoms).
What are triglycerides?
Triglycerides are lipids/ fats from human blood: when you eat something, your body converts all the calories it doesn't need into triglycerides and stores them in fat cells (for example, the fat accumulated on the hips or abdomen is made up of triglycerides). Subsequently, the hormones release them between meals, for added energy. In addition, their role is to isolate and protect vital organs. If a person frequently consumes more calories than he burns, especially from carbohydrate-rich foods, he may have increased triglycerides (which is called hypertriglyceridaemia).
Causes of elevated triglycerides
Risk factors that can raise your blood fat levels and cause hypertriglyceridaemia include:
- regular consumption of more calories than your body burns;
- excess weight or obesity;
- a sedentary lifestyle;
- a high-fat and/ or carbohydrate diet;
- excessive alcohol consumption;
- certain medicines (diuretics, contraceptive pills, beta-blockers, retinoids, steroids, anti-HIV);
- certain diseases (liver, kidney, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, thyroid disease);
- genetic inheritance.
Symptoms of hypertriglyceridaemia
Usually, a too high level of triglycerides in the body does not entail symptoms; exception is genetically inherited hypertriglyceridaemia, which produces visible fatty deposits under the skin. That's why it's important to have regular blood tests to determine your blood fat levels (within a lipid profile) and monitor it through doctor's visits.
Each person over 20 years of age must make at least every 5 years such a lipid profile, which also includes analyses of the level of total cholesterol, "good"/HDL and "bad"/LDL. Analyses are done on an empty stomach, as the level of triglycerides in the blood automatically increases after eating. It is also influenced by alcohol consumption, menstrual cycle, time of day and recent practice of sport.
The link between triglycerides and cholesterol
Triglycerides and cholesterol are different types of lipids circulating through the blood: the former provide energy, the second contributes to the construction of cells and hormones. Triglycerides are involved in the transport of fatty acids to muscles and tissues, to give them energy. "Good"/HDL cholesterol is involved in transporting excess fatty acids back into the liver for elimination, but also in transporting cholesterol to organs that synthesize hormones (adrenal glands, ovaries, testicles). Because of this competition in the body and the fact that HDL has an inverse relationship with triglycerides (if the former is high, the latter can be reduced), it is very difficult to increase "good" cholesterol without first dealing with the decrease of triglycerides.
What is the normal level of triglycerides?
- normal level: less than 150 mg/deciliter;
- limit level: 150-199 mg/deciliter;
- high level: 200-499 mg/deciliter;
- very high level: over 500 mg/deciliter.
Complications of elevated triglycerides
These fats are deposited on the arterial walls and predispose to atherosclerosis and a level of more than 150 mg/deciliter can increase the risk of heart disease and metabolic syndrome. On the other hand, a very high level of fats in the blood is associated with problems of the liver and pancreas. High triglycerides may contribute or be a sign of the following diseases:
- atherosclerosis (strengthening of the arteries), which increases the risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke;
- pancreatitis (acute inflammation of the pancreas);
- metabolic syndrome (which includes hypertension, obesity, abnormal cholesterol and high blood sugar levels and which increases the risk of heart disease);
- hypothyroidism (which occurs when the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones);
- prediabetes / type 2 diabetes;
- steatosis/non-alcoholic liver disease (triglycerides accumulate in excess and in the liver), a disease that can lead to cirrhosis or liver failure.
Ways to lower triglycerides
The main change you can make about bringing your own triglycerides to a normal level is about lifestyle, but there are also natural or medicinal solutions that you can turn to:
- exercise often: regular movement has a major impact on blood fat levels; target at least 30 minutes of physical activity at least 5 times/week; if you are not at all fit and have a sedentary lifestyle, it is important to start moving gradually to get your body used over time; to increase your HDL cholesterol level and reduce your triglycerides, do aerobic exercises (light running, cycling, swimming);
- get rid of extra pounds: cut the calories consumed daily and remember that if you lose and only 5-10% of your own weight you can lower your triglyceride level by 40 ml/deciliter.
Changes in nutrition:
- avoid added sugar: sugar is a type of simple carbohydrate that increases triglycerides in the body and threatens the heart; consumed in excess worldwide, added sugar is often hidden in sauces, fruit yogurts and soft drinks; by replacing water-sweetened beverages you can reduce triglycerides by almost 29 mg/deciliter; in addition, consume commercial sweets as rarely as possible, replace dessert with fruit, do not buy sugar syrup compote (but in its own juice), nor cereals having more than 8 g of sugar/portion, nor packaged foods whose label is, among the first ingredients, sugar, sucrose, glucose, fructose, corn syrup, maltose, honey or molasses;
- avoid simple/refined carbohydrates: like added sugar, excess carbohydrates become fat, so choose a low-calorie diet to maintain your normal blood fat levels; consume as rarely as possible refined cereals and products based on them (flour, rice and white pasta, biscuits, cakes, various pastries), replacing them with whole versions and bulgur, couscous, millet or buckwheat;
- choose healthy fats: limit your total fat intake to 30-35% of the calories consumed daily; avoid foods high in saturated and trans fats (meat, butter, margarine, fatty dairy, fast food, roasting); choose as often as possible foods high in mono- and polyunsaturated fats (tone, salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, olive oil, avocado, nuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios, pecans and Macadamia);
- eat more fiber: they can reduce the absorption of fats and sugars into the small intestine, helping to reduce the amount of triglycerides in the blood; often consumes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, chia and flax seeds, Psyllium;
- consume soy protein: soybeans are rich in isoflavones, a type of vegetable compound that can reduce blood fats; choose soy milk and yogurt, tofu cheese, dried beans or ready-made soybeans (in the form of granules, cubes or slices);
- reduce alcohol consumption: even drinking in small amounts, alcohol has a strong effect on triglyceride levels, being high in calories and sugars; drink a maximum of 1 portion/day (for women) and 2 servings/day (for men); 1 serving = 44 ml strength, 89 ml wine or 354 ml beer;
- establish a clear food plan: control the size of your portions, eat a little and often, don't skip meals and don't eat late at night;
- try intermittent fasting: it determine your body to burn stored fats to get energy and can reduce the number of extra pounds, cholesterol and triglycerides.
Food supplements and natural products:
There are various natural supplements that have the potential to reduce triglycerides in the blood. Seek medical advice and then try:
- fish oil supplements are known for their strong effect on heart health, with a daily dose of 4 g of Omega-3 EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) or DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) able to reduce blood fats by up to 30%;
- niacin / vitamin B3 is another dietary supplement that lowers triglycerides, a dose of 1,500 mg/day that can reduce them by up to 40%;
- alpha-lipoic acid is an antioxidant given as a supplement, with beneficial effect on cardiovascular health, blood fats and diabetes risk;
- probiotic supplements may play a role in reducing triglycerides;
- Guggul (Commiphora mukul) is a natural supplement that helps to dissolve fats and may decrease triglycerides at people who have high cholesterol and who also use food therapy;
- curcumin supplements (turmeric extract) keep cholesterol within normal limits and help maintain cardiovascular health;
- fenugreek is traditionally used to stimulate the production of breast milk, but seeds can be effective also in reducing triglycerides in the blood;
- garlic fights inflammation and can reduce blood fats; consume it fresh or in the form of an extract (in capsules);
- green tea, parsley, artichoke, cinnamon, coriander seeds and infusion of Ginko biloba can help reduce triglycerides;
- apple vinegar can improve the lipid profile; mix 1 teaspoon in a glass of water, add a little honey and drink the resulting solution 2 times/day for at least 2 months;
- Reishi mushrooms (consumed in the form of powder) help the heart and contain compounds with hypocholesterolemic properties;
- red rice yeast is a popular Chinese treatment, which modulates lipid levels;
- Normocholesterol (Dacia Plant) is a natural product that decreases the amount of fat in the blood and contains turmeric, birch, guggul, ginger, dandelion, burdock, chicory and coriander essential oil;
- Coleseronet (Herbagetica) is a natural product, which consists of herbal extracts with a strong action to regulate fat metabolism and contributes (among other things) to the decrease of triglycerides; is a powder extract, containing extract of chicory and olive leaves, kelp, artichokes and knotweed.
If changes in diet and lifestyle (combined with natural treatments) do not have the expected effects, then triglycerides can also be reduced by calling for medication. Talk to your doctor about all possible treatment options and remember that pills can help you, but how you live every day matters a lot!
Did you know that?
- 95% of the fat consumed by diet is composed of triglycerides?
- triglycerides contain more than twice as much energy as proteins or carbohydrates?
- if you want to not exceed the recommended daily intake of added sugar, then you should not consume products containing sugar in the proportion of more than 100 kcal/day (for women) or 150 kcal/day (in the case of men)?
- overall, more than a third of adult Americans have high levels of triglycerides?