Indian population with predisposition to fat deposit in the abdominal area is more prone to high triglycerides than cholesterol. High waist circumference is a clear indication of high fat percentage in the body and an elevated triglyceride is a direct test to confirm the same. Although triglycerides is an important test within the lipid profile , it is often not understood by many. High triglycerides can independently increase risk of heart diseases and needs to be treated as seriously as high cholesterol.The management approach to high triglycerides is similar to that of cholesterol but additional points have to be remembered.

Difference between cholesterol and triglycerides

Although both are fat components, their role in the body is very different. Triglycerides are packed with cholesterol into globules called lipoproteins which are carriers of fat.  While cholesterol has several important functions such as hormone production, synthesis of vitamin D, etc , triglycerides are purely fat molecules floating in blood which are stored as fat tissue when present in excess of requirement. It is a storage form of fat which is made from the excess  calories, alcohol or sugar in the body. So, although not all cholesterol is bad (we know that HDL is the good cholesterol), higher than normal triglycerides are definitely bad!

Normal levels

The national guidelines for fasting triglyceride levels in healthy adults are:

  • Normal: Under 150 mg/dl
  • Borderline High: 151–200 mg/dl
  • High: 201–499 mg/dl
  • Very High: 500 mg/dl or higher

Levels higher than 200 mg/dL are associated with an increase in the risk of heart attack, stroke and death.

How to treat high triglycerides

Elevated triglycerides are most often an indication of faulty eating patterns and poor physical activity. So losing weight is one of the most important steps in management of high triglycerides with correct approach to diet and exercise. Diet must include more whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts and the healthy oils.

Restrict sugar and simple/refined sugars: One must remember that triglycerides are composed of both fats as well as sugars and hence to lower triglycerides one has to restrict sugars in the diet along with fats.

Direct sugar as in table sugar can be restricted by avoiding sugar sweetened beverages such as cold coffee, iced tea, colas, juices , etc. But, at the same time, the simple sugars present in the not-so-sweet tasting foods prepared from refined wheat flour such as noodles, breads, crackers, and other bakery products should be avoided. Even alcohol is one of the most common causes for increased triglycerides as alcoholic drinks contain simple sugars. In fact, individuals with very high triglycerides need to totally stop the consumption of all of the above

Restrict saturated and trans fats: Foods containing saturated and trans fat such as those prepared using the solid fats and reused oils need to be avoided. These include all kinds of fried snacks and bakery products .

The bottom line is that excess abdominal fat is like the hot seat for all kinds of metabolic problems. The solution is simple – WEIGHT LOSS. The day we achieve a healthy waist circumference and weight, we are protected from a host of deadly diseases.

 

References:

http://my.clevelandclinic.org/services/heart/prevention/risk-factors/cholesterol/triglycerides

https://www.umassmed.edu/uploadedfiles/LoweringTriglycerides.pdf

Written by drpoojachhawcharia

Dr Pooja Chhawcharia is the Senior Nutritionist at eKincare with over 7 years of experience in Nutrition education, diet counseling and research. She is a Registered Dietician with the Indian Dietetic Association and Certified Diabetes Educator recognized by the International Diabetes federation . She is also interested in ancillary sciences such as Yoga and Naturopathy.

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