What are Triglycerides?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 12 May 2020
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Triglycerides are the chemical formation of animal and vegetable fats. In molecular form, three molecules of fatty acids combine with glycerol to form triglycerides. In the human body, these are carried through the blood plasma, and unused molecules are stored in the body as fat.

Virtually all naturally occurring fats contain triglycerides. However, while higher than normal levels of these lipoproteins are considered medically unsafe, a normal intake is encouraged. Both carbohydrates and proteins provide energy to the body. Triglycerides provide twice that.

These fatty acids are not only present in the body through the consumption of fats, but also through the consumption of carbohydrates. Most carbohydrates are naturally turned into triglycerides by the body. Therefore, a diet low in fat, but high in carbohydrates, may serve to increase levels.

A low carbohydrate diet often helps to lower the body's levels, although this type of diet is not good for everyone. Many nutritionists encourage the consumption of both fats and carbohydrates in moderation. Healthy dietary practices tend to often focus on portion control and a balanced intake of protein and complex carbohydrates.

Though high levels are associated with an increased risk of heart disease, they are not usually a primary cause. Generally, the body must also have a high level of low-density lipoproteins (LDL), and a lower than normal level of high density lipoproteins (HDL), to increase the risk of hardening of the arteries, atherosclerosis, heart attack, or stroke. A chemical analysis of LDL and HDL levels provides a better indicator for one's risk of heart disease than a triglyceride count. However, blood tests screening for LDL and HDL also provide a triglyceride count.

While only suspect in heart disease, excess levels are directly linked to obesity and to pancreatitis. Pancreatitis causes severe stomach pain, which lasts for two to three days. Chronic pancreatitis may result in long-term pain, diarrhea, and nausea. Pain may worsen after large meals. The chronic form is difficult to treat, so lowering the levels makes good sense to avoid this condition.

The American Heart Association(AHA) has established the following guidelines for triglyceride levels:

  • Normal levels are less than 150 milligrams per deciliter.
  • Borderline high is 150-199mg/dl.
  • High is 200-499 mg/dl.
  • Very High is 500 or above mg/dl.

The AHA also recommends a sensible diet, smoking cessation, and exercising daily for at least 30 minutes to reduce triglyceride levels.

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Discuss this Article

Post 6

Low carb diets are extremely healthy. What is unhealthy about low carb diets are people who lack the knowledge of low carb diets but write false information, as if they were experts.

Post 4

The guidelines for the levels of triglycerides are for adults that are over the age of 20, and yes, those numbers are a reflection of blood tests done after fasting.

Post 3

Will drinking a 12oz glass of orange juice two hours before a triglyceride/cholesterol blood test have a direct effect on the results? Thank you.

Post 2

I am interested in the comment regarding triglyderides, pancreatitis and the South Beach Diet. I have a friend who has been very ill over the past nine months because she developed pancreatitis. She went on the South Beach Diet and stayed on it for two to three months losing a tremendous amount of weight. Shortly after, she was diagnosed with pancreatitis, has had two major surgeries and will have another surgery in the next few days. Her doctor has indicated that the reason for her getting pancreatites is a mystery to him. Could the South Beach Diet have caused it?

Post 1

Regarding the statements in this article about the AHA's triglyceride levels...These measurements are fasting values made after not eating food (that does not include alcohol) the night before the tests are taken. If you take the measurements soon after consuming food, triglyceride levels are bound to be high.

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