How to Reduce High Triglyceride Levels

by Dr. David Williams
Filed Under: Cholesterol, Heart Health
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

Lifestyle changes can help you lower your numbers and avoid potential diabetes

If you have high triglyceride levels, it means you are consuming too much sugar in your diet and likely too much fat as well. Your body combines this excess sugar and fat to make triglycerides, and then stores them for future energy use. Triglycerides are the type of fat that typically builds up around the gut (the “spare tire“) and around muscles (flabby arms).

Anyone who’s been diagnosed with high triglyceride levels needs to lower them or risk serious health consequences. High triglycerides are often the first step on the path not only to heart disease, but to obesity and type 2 diabetes.

How Triglyceride Levels Are Related to Diabetes

Insulin is needed to help store the excess sugar and fat. Therefore, insulin levels tend to increase along with triglyceride levels.

An increased insulin level suppresses the production of the hormone glucagon in your pancreas. Glucagon works just the opposite of insulin—its job is to move the stored sugars back into the bloodstream so they can be burned. But if your triglyceride levels remain high enough for long enough, this becomes a self-perpetuating cycle that leads to obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.

Strategies to Lower Your Triglyceride Levels

Here’s how you can bring your numbers down and break the cycle:

  • Cut simple sugars out of your diet. In addition to excess sugar being a primary ingredient for triglycerides, research has shown that for several hours after eating sugar or high-glycemic foods, the elasticity of your arteries is reduced. It also has been established that the ability of the arteries to dilate or expand is impaired in diabetics when blood sugar rises. Based on this knowledge, researchers compared the effects of eating a high-carbohydrate (high-glycemic) meal like corn flakes or glucose to a low-glycemic meal of bran flakes or just water. They discovered that for as long as two hours after the meal, those eating the corn flakes or glucose experienced a significant reduction in arterial dilation and blood flow. This means high-glycemic meals may actually increase cardiovascular risk.
  • Reduce or eliminate your intake of vegetable fats and highly processed trans fatty acids. Instead, eat the more natural fats that are higher in omega-3 fatty acids like those in fish, grass-fed beef, avocados, seeds, and nuts. Eat smaller meals and spread them throughout the day. With these kinds of foods and meals, less insulin will be produced, and the pancreas can produce more glucagon.
  • Exercise. Weight-bearing activity, in particular, increases muscle mass and raises your metabolic rate. This will help your body burn more carbohydrates, leaving less for storage. (If you want to build even more lean muscle, you can add muscle-building supplements such as creatine and conjugated linoleic acid.)
  • Take alpha lipoic acid. It’s more expensive than many supplements, but at doses of around 300 mg a day, it has been shown to lower blood sugar levels by increasing the efficiency of the mitochondria, your cells’ energy factories.
  • Eat more fiber. A very inexpensive and easy way to add fiber is by taking a teaspoon or so of psyllium each morning. Metamucil and other psyllium-based products are readily available and make the process very convenient. Fiber decreases the bowel transit time, so fewer calories are absorbed. Other good sources of fiber.

More Dr. Williams Advice on Cholesterol

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