How Do Triglycerides Affect The Body?

What Are Triglycerides?

Triglycerides are a type of fat or lipid found in your blood.  A triglyceride contains a glycerol unit and 3 fatty acid chains. 

what is a triglyceride

Where Do They Come From & What Do They Do?

Your body uses triglycerides for energy that you can use to do…well, anything you want!   One place they come from is your liver, and another is from the food you eat, such as meat and dairy products, as well as vegetable oils.  Foods that may raise your triglycerides include hot dogs, tropical oils, refined carbs foods like french fries, foods that include refined or simple sugars like doughnuts and alcohol.

How do triglycerides get to the cells that need them?  Triglycerides in food are digested, and eventually reach your liver.  Triglycerides from your food, along with the ones made in your liver, are then combined, and bound together by proteins.  Each of these resulting molecules are called lipoproteins.  Lipoproteins travel through your blood and deliver protein to your cells, which then use them for energy.  If you have too many triglycerides, they are then stored as -you guessed it – extra body fat.

Transport of Lipoproteins in the Body

FYI: Extra Body Fat = Unused Energy

Now, the thing about extra body fat that sometimes people don’t understand is that it’s there “just in case”.  “Just in case what?”, you might ask, “Just in case I want to feel more sluggish and unattractive?”  Well, no.  Fat is just a reserve fuel source for your body in case it needs it for those situations where you might need to run from a tiger, or climb a tree to grab some of those hard to reach bananas.  The problem these days is that more and more people just don’t use up that extra energy, and it has to go somewhere.  Many people live their lives sitting at desks, and laying on the couch.  No offence to us modern day folks, but our forebears spent a lot more time tilling the soil and plowing the field.  Before that, they were probably running away from a giant bear or something.  The point is, times have changed in a way that is detrimental to our health, because we are eating more and doing less.  To get back to triglycerides, a sedentary lifestyle leads to a triglyceride level that is too high. 

Sedentary-Lifestyle-can-Take-a-Toll-on-Your-Health

Recommended Triglyceride Levels for Adults

If you are over the age of 20, the medical community recommends you have a blood test every 5 years to test your triglyceride level.  This is called a Fasting Lipoprotein Test.  This involves taking blood from your arm after you have not eaten for 9-12 hours.  This test will reveal whether or not your triglycerides fall into a healthy range.  For the majority of people, fasting triglycerides should measure less than 150 mg/dL (milligrams per decilitre).  Borderline high is somewhere between 150-199 mg/dL.  200 to 499 mg/dL is considered high, and 500+ is considered very high. 

If your triglycerides are high, this increases your risk of pancreatitis, strokes, and cardiovascular events like heart disease (plaque build-up on your artery walls).  Heart disease is a major killer of humans across the board, so this is one big reason to keep your triglyceride levels at a reasonable level. 

After saying all this, I want to re-state that triglycerides are an essential part of your body’s chemical composition.  We need them to function, they help us in many ways, and they are of course totally natural. 

Here’s what people should consider is this in terms of keeping their triglyceride count in the right range to avoid future problems:

1. Don’t overeat

2. Don’t consume too many refined carbs

3. Don’t drink too much alcohol

4. Be active!

This is, of course, very simplified advice, but it’s true.  If you still aren’t clear on how triglycerides work, it is always a good idea to ask your doctor.  Check out our fitness section to learn more about how to stay healthy!

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