Triglyceride particles are different than the other two cholesterol particles. Triglycerides are one of the particles that transport fat around the body. Only about 20 percent of a triglyceride particle consists of cholesterol. And the relative contribution of triglycerides to the development of heart disease has been less clear, compared to the more definite roles of LDL and HDL.
Normal TG levels fall below 150 mg/dL.
How can you lower your triglycerides? It’s the old familiar recipe of good diet, exercise, and weight loss again — but with a couple of twists. Diet is especially powerful in influencing triglyceride levels. But not a low-fat diet. This might seem counterintuitive. (After all, triglycerides are primarily fat particles — right?) Yes, triglycerides are primarily fat particles, but they actually reflect an overabundance of carbohydrates rather than of actual fat in the diet.
Except in the situation where TG levels are extremely high (which tends to be genetically determined), TGs are around because they are efficient energy-storage particles. Taking extra carbohydrates and turning them into TGs (essentially condensing them) makes storage much more compact. So anytime we have excess carbohydrates or higher (storage-promoting) insulin levels, TG levels tend to go up. You can therefore see how a low-fat diet (which is almost always high in carbohydrates) would be counterproductive in this situation.
The answer is a low-saturated-fat, high-fiber, calorie-controlled diet. Sound familiar? Just remember that low saturated fat does not mean low fat. A diet that includes low saturated fat encourages consumption of olive oil, canola oil and the oils in nuts and seeds and fish. Low-carbohydrate diets actually work well in patients with high triglycerides, but for optimal health, a person must limit his or her consumption of saturated fats. High-saturated-fat intake is an often-overlooked side effect of many low-carb diets). TG levels are also quite sensitive to weight loss.
Changes in triglyceride levels can be dramatic from an absolute numbers standpoint. Whereas we deal with single-digit changes for HDL cholesterol and low double-digit changes for LDL, TG changes can often be measured in the 100s (especially when you start out with a very high number). Amazingly, such changes can be seen with lifestyle management alone. Nothing underscores the benefits of a healthy existence like the sound of one of your bad cholesterol components dropping like a brick!