Wednesday, April 17, 2013


In the last blog entry I shared a counterintuitive finding—a relatively "high" (40%) fat diet lowers triglycerides (fat in the blood)!  The key: eat predominately plant and fish fat.

Triglycerides consist of three fatty acids (“tri”) attached to a glycerol molecule (“glycerides”).  Triglycerides are one of the components of the atherosclerotic plaque which leads to cardiovascular diseaseTriglycerides may be just as important as cholesterol, if not more important, in the progression of cardiovascular disease.   

Know your triglycerides! 

A serum triglyceride level of 150 milligrams/deciliter or higher is cause for concern and dietary (and exercise) modification.  The American Heart Association recently published a statement recommending that a new “optimal” fasting triglyceride level be defined as 100 mg/dL (Triglycerides and Cardiovascular Disease : A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association, April 18, 2011 in Circulation).

Our body fat is composed largely of triglycerides.  When excess fat is present in our bodies, the serum triglyceride (blood fat) level may increase.  In fact waist circumference (belly storage fat) is a better predictor of cardiovascular disease and diabetes risk than body weight.  A waist circumference of 35” in women, or 40” in men, will put you at significantly higher risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. 

Recommendations for Lowering Triglycerides:

The dietary/lifestyle recommendations for lowering triglycerides are similar to those for lowering cholesterol, with the additional focus on reducing simple carbohydrates and alcohol:

·        ¯ Animal/Saturated Fat
·    ¯ Simple Carbohydrates. In “insulin resistant” individuals, eating refined carbohydrates can lead to hyperinsulinemia and high triglycerides.  It is the simple carbohydrates which Americans consume in excess that are known to affect insulin--there is no evidence that complex carbohydrates are to blame.  Research on healthy cultures around the world indicate that an optimal diet (consumed in a variety of ways) is based on 90% plant and 10% animal food based on 50% whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds, 30% vegetables, and 10% fruit, a large carbohydrate intake to be sure, but very different from the largely refined carbohydrates upon which Americans base their Standard American Diet.

·        ¯ Alcohol.  Alcohol contributes 7 calories/gram and virtually no nutrition.  When we consume alcohol it is not immediately burned for calories, but first converted to fatty acids in the liver (cirrhosis of the liver in alcoholics = fatty livers which scar and burst), then the fatty acids are burned for energy secondary to available carbohydrates.  The beer-belly softball player doesn’t burn the beer for energy first, but the hot dog bun instead!  More often the fatty acids are stored.

·        Exercise.  Consistent exercise is very helpful in controlling serum triglyceride levels.

So to lower your triglycerides reduce animal protein, simple (refined) carbohydrates and alcohol, and eat whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds, vegetables, fruit, fish and plant oils with moderate amounts of lean meat and dairy (think Mediterranean).  Remember, counterintuitively, a seemingly "high" 40% fat diet based predominately on plant (especially monounsaturated fat, olive oil) and fish fat lowers triglycerides, likely due to an indirect affect of eating less simple carbohydrates and animal protein.  Finally, consistent exercise can have a major positive effect on your triglycerides, and on your risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Know your triglycerides.

Eat right, exercise, enjoy!

Diane Preves, M.S., R.D.

Note:  it is not uncommon to see a transient rise in triglycerides during weight-loss (it usually resolves within 6-12 months).

Thank you for sharing this post with others who might benefit from the information shared herein.

1 comment:

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