WEEKLY HEALTH BULLETIN August 14, 2009
TIPS ON TRIGLYCERIDES
FACTS DOCTORS OVERLOOK
Triglycerides are the storage form of most types of fats in the body. When you eat more calories than you burn, the excess is stored as triglycerides. High triglycerides are associated with increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Practically speaking, triglycerides go up when you consume too many carbohydrates in your diet, especially processed carbs loaded with sugar and flour.
HOW TO GROW FAT
When you eat this way, insulin levels also go up. Chronically elevated levels of insulin cause all sorts of problems. This result in insulin resistance which means you end up with chronically elevated blood sugar levels and an increased tendency to convert blood sugar into fat. To add insult to injury, elevated insulin levels make it harder for you to burn stored fat.
When you have trouble burning fat for energy, fat can end up storing itself around your middle. This central fat storage or visceral adipose is pro-inflammatory and associated with increased risk of the usual list of common chronic degenerative diseases that plague our disease ridden society – heart disease, diabetes, dementia, osteoporosis, cancer and so on.
Elevated insulin levels also cause you to retain salt and water, which can raise your blood pressure.
So as you can see, high triglycerides signal a lot of potentially damaging metabolic upset in your body. And as I mentioned above, triglycerides are driven up mainly by eating excess processed carbs, which are the mainstay of most Americans’ diets these days.
Doctors routinely measure triglycerides when they measure total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol. Yet based on my conversations with patients, they rarely discuss this important blood test with them.
MAKE SENSE OF YOUR TRIGLYCERIDES
Here’s a simple way to interpret your own triglyceride level and what to do about it.
Most people should aim for a triglyceride levels below 100 milligrams per deciliter, ideally below 80. A small number of people genetically inherit high levels, so this advice does not apply to them.
Low triglyceride levels not only mean you’ve probably avoided the metabolic disturbances and heightened disease risk described above, they can also tip you off about what’s going on with your LDL cholesterol.
It’s more important to know what kind of LDL cholesterol you have than to simply know how high your LDL cholesterol is.
ARE YOU AT RISK BUT DON’T KNOW IT?
Small dense LDL cholesterol particles are much more likely to cause heart disease than large, fluffy buoyant LDL particles. The risk of heart disease is three times greater from small dense LDL than it is with large buoyant LDL.
You need to know this information, because you could have “normal” LDL cholesterol but it could be of the wrong type. So you might be at higher risk and not know it.
There are specialized tests from companies such as Atherotec, Spectra Cell and Berkeley Heart labs that show this fine detail as well as several other important markers for heart disease risk. But the fact is, most doctors simply don’t make use of them. This is a pity. Insurance usually pays for them. Anybody in whom heart disease risk is a concern should have one done.
Low triglyceride levels below 100 mg/dl are associated with the safer large buoyant LDL particles. So you can use your triglyceride level as rough measure of what’s going on with your LDL particle type.
LOWER YOUR TRIGLYCERIDES
The best way to lower triglycerides is to cut out the processed carbs and lower carbs in general. Most people actually need to east more natural fat and fewer carbs in order to achieve healthy triglyceride levels. Fats help prevent carb cravings and help slow the release of sugar from carbs into the blood. This prevents blood sugar spikes and chronically elevated insulin levels.
Unfortunately, our society remains brainwashed by the “fat is bad” mantra that most people heedlessly continue to consume too many carbs and not enough natural fat, to the detriment of their health. Untainted natural fats come from healthy source organic animal sources, olive oil, nuts, avocado and cold water fish, such as salmon, herring, sardines and mackerel.
Supplementing with fish oil (1000 – 3000 mg total DHA and EPA) is a smart way to support healthy triglyceride levels, with all the benefits described above, and support general overall health, too.
Alan Inglis MD
American Country Doctor