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.