Friday, June 7, 2013

Triglyceride?...what is it?

What is Triglyceride
Triglyceride (triacylglycerol, TAG or triacylglyceride) is an ester composed of a glycerol bound to three fatty acids. It is the main constituent of vegetable oil and animal fats.
Most natural fats contain a complex mixture of individual triglycerides. Because of this, they melt over a broad range of temperatures. Cocoa butter is unusual in that it is composed of only a few triglycerides, one of which contains palmitic, oleic, and stearic acids, in order of concentration.

In humans, triglyceride synthesis occurs mainly in the liver and also in the adipose tissue, in small quantities. Excess carbohydrates are converted to fatty acids and then to triglycerides, which are transported to the adipose tissues through blood.

Normal range of triglyceride levels
Below is the normal range of fasting triglyceride levels, in children and adults, as per the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP), USA.

Triglyceride Range Children
(2-19 years)
Normal < 100 < 150
Borderline 100-130 150-199
High 130-150 200-499
Very high > 150 > 500
*Above values are expressed in mg/dL

Note: The reference/normal range for serum triglycerides may vary for different diagnostic laboratories and countries.

Some effects of high triglyceride levels
High triglyceride levels can contribute to the development of atherosclerosis, which is a narrowing of the arteries. Elevated numbers of triglycerides can cause plaque to gradually accumulate along the walls of the blood vessels. Over time, this causes the arteries to narrow and even harden, creating resistance in the flow of blood through the arteries and causing the heart to work harder than normal.

Coronary Artery Disease
More so a complication of atherosclerosis, coronary artery disease is a narrowing of the arteries nearest your heart. Since high triglycerides levels play a role in atherosclerosis, they're considered a contributing factor in this condition, maintains the American Heart Association.

Carotid Artery Disease
High triglyceride levels can also contribute to the development of carotid artery disease. Much like coronary artery disease, this condition is a result of plaque accumulating along the arterial walls. But instead of collecting in the arteries nearest the heart, the fatty deposits narrow the arteries nearest the brain. Due to the location of plaque build up, it increases the risk of a transient ischemic attack or stroke, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Peripheral Artery Disease
Similar to both coronary artery and carotid artery disease, peripheral artery disease is also a narrowing of the arteries. However, the narrowing is located in the arteries along the outer extremities, such as the arms and legs. It can cause some cramping, pain, numbness or weakness in the affected limb.

According to the Canadian Medical Association Journal, high levels of triglycerides may contribute to pancreatitis, which is an inflammation of the pancreas. This may cause some pain or tenderness along the abdomen as well as some nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite. If inflammation is left untreated, a person may experience malnutrition, infection or even kidney failure.

Foods That Raise Triglyceride Levels
•Sugar: Simple sugars, such as fructose, are the worst culprits. It is easy to eat too much fructose as it seems to bypass bodily satiety signals. This leads to weight gain and the development of insulin resistance. Fructose is most often found in high-fructose corn syrup. Read the labels and watch out for corn syrup, honey, sucrose, glucose, fructose, honey or maltose listed as one of the first ingredients. Minimize your consumption of foods such as candy, ice cream, flavored sweetened yogurts, sweetened juices and other drinks, cereals, honey, molasses, jams, jellies, and canned fruit. (While fresh fruit does have naturally occurring fructose, the fiber in fruit slows down its digestion.)

•Saturated and trans fats: Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and are found in fried foods, red meat, chicken skin, egg yolks, high-fat dairy, butter, lard, shortening, margarine, and fast food. Trans fats are hydrogenated fats and are found in many packaged foods, such as chips, cookies, cakes, donuts, microwave popcorn, and pastries. Trans fats are also present in margarine, shortening, fried foods, and fast foods. Instead, choose lean proteins, such as skinless white chicken meat, fish, low-fat dairy, egg whites, and legumes. Good oil choices are olive oil, canola oil, and peanut oil.

•Refined grains or starchy foods: Try to avoid enriched or bleached white bread, wheat bread, or pasta. Also avoid sugary cereals, instant rice, bagels, pizza, pastries, pies, cookies, and cakes. Starchy foods include high-starch vegetables, such as potatoes. Instead, choose foods with 100% whole grains, long-grain rice instead of instant rice, and non-starchy vegetables.

•Alcohol: Excessive alcohol consumption causes the liver to increase triglyceride production.

•High-calorie foods: Excess calories increase triglyceride levels. Pay attention to the calories you consume and try to avoid eating more calories than you can burn though physical activity
How to manage your triglyceride level
Here are some guidelines to help you manage your triglyceride level:
  • Moderate exercise on five or more days each week can help lower triglyceride levels.
  • Losing 5%-10% of your weight can lower triglycerides. People with a healthy weight are more likely to have normal triglyceride levels. Belly fat is associated with higher levels.
  • Reducing saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol in your diet can improve triglyceride levels and help manage cholesterol. Eating less carbohydrates in your diet will also help lower triglyceride levels.
  • Drinking alcohol can raise triglyceride levels. Some studies show that drinking more than one drink a day for women or two for men can raise triglyceride levels by a lot. Some people with high triglycerides may need to cut out alcohol entirely.
  • Eating more fish high in omega-3s can lower triglyceride levels. Fish like mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna, and salmon are high in omega-3s. It may be hard to get enough omega-3s from food to help lower your triglycerides. Your doctor may recommend a supplement or prescription omega-3s.
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