What Causes High Triglycerides? Sugar, Grains, and Alcohol Are Big Culprits

What Causes High Triglycerides? Sugar, Grains, & Alcohol Are Big CulpritsEven if your blood cholesterol levels are naturally low or are well-controlled with statin drugs or supplements, you could have high levels of a different dangerous fat compound: triglycerides. No matter what your cholesterol level is, having high levels of triglycerides in your bloodstream puts you at risk for earlier death and heart disease.[1,2]

Elevated triglycerides are also associated with the metabolic syndrome, a cluster of risk factors that are linked to cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, fatty liver disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and more.[3,4]

Clearly, high triglycerides threaten your health. So what causes high triglycerides and what can you do to lower them?

Sugar and refined carbs can elevate triglycerides

While any excess fat or carbohydrate from the diet can trigger high triglycerides in the blood, sugar and other refined carbohydrates (such as white bread, white rice, or noodles) are particularly problematic.

If you have healthy metabolic function, you should be able to rapidly convert these dietary-induced triglycerides into energy or fat storage if needed. However, with increasing age, belly fat, or insulin resistance, the ability to properly handle dietary sugar and refined carbohydrates diminishes, resulting in high blood levels of triglycerides.

Foods to avoid to lower triglycerides

One of the first and foremost treatments for slashing triglycerides, then, is cutting added sugars. Some of the main sources of added sugars in the diet are sugar-sweetened beverages, grain desserts, dairy desserts, cold cereal, and candy.[5]

Refined/processed carbohydrates, such as breads, white rice, noodles, crackers, breakfast cereals, bagels, and pretzels should also be greatly reduced, if not eliminated. If grains are consumed at all, they should be 100 percent whole grains with a visible kernel.

Eat whole, fiber-rich fruits, but do not overindulge in more than two servings a day. Avoid fruit juices and dried fruits due to their high fructose levels. Fruit sugar (fructose) quickly increases triglyceride levels when consumed in excess. Some natural sweeteners, such as honey, agave syrup, and fruit juice concentrate, are particularly high in fructose, so these should be avoided as well by anyone needing to lower their triglyceride levels.

Alcohol is bad news for triglycerides

If you drink alcohol daily or have more than seven servings of alcohol per week, your risk for high triglycerides more than doubles.[6,7] Having more than two servings of alcohol per day, especially if you drink beer or hard alcohol as opposed to wine, is particularly dangerous.[8] Furthermore, the more overweight you are, the more alcohol increases your triglycerides.[9]

Despite the fact that moderate alcohol consumption can be protective against heart disease in some circumstances, anyone with high triglycerides is advised to reduce or stop alcohol consumption.[9] If you do drink alcohol, choose wine with meals, as it is the least likely to increase your triglycerides and the most cardioprotective.

Additional natural treatment options for high triglycerides

Dietary supplements can also play a helpful role. Some of the most effective triglyceride-lowering natural therapies are high-dose niacin, highly-concentrated fish oil, and green tea catechins.

  • Niacin lowers triglycerides, LDL and total cholesterol, while increasing HDL and transforming LDL particles to a form less likely to cause atherosclerosis.
  • Fish oil supplements concentrated in the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are an excellent way to lower triglycerides.
  • Green tea catechins are a type of flavonoid that can greatly decrease triglyceride levels by reducing excess accumulation of triglycerides after meals.

Address what causes high triglycerides: Cut sugar, refined/processed carbs, and alcohol

To get started, cut out sugar, alcohol, and refined carbohydrates in the context of a healthful diet. Some people with high triglycerides will also need to implement additional dietary and lifestyle therapies, such as decreasing overall calories and fat calories, to see reach desired levels. Finally, supplementing with fish oil, niacin, and green tea catechins can help you reach optimal triglyceride levels.

If you’re successfully lowered your triglycerides without drugs, we want to hear about it. Please share your story in the comments section below.

[1] Cardiovasc Diabetol. 2014; 13: 159.

[2] J Am Coll Cardiol. 2015 Jun 2;65(21):2267-75.

[3] Exp Mol Med. 2015 Mar 13;47:e149.

[4] Cardiol Res Pract. 2014; 2014: 943162.

[5] J Am Diet Assoc. 2010 Oct;110(10):1477-84.

[6] Clin Nutr. 2013 Oct;32(5):797-804.

[7] J Clin Lipidol. 2014 May-Jun;8(3):273-8.

[8] Am J Cardiol. 2009 Feb 1;103(3):361-8.

[9] Curr Opin Lipidol. 2013 Aug;24(4):321-6.

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UHN Staff

University Health News is produced by the award-winning editors and authors of Belvoir Media Group’s Health & Wellness Division. Headquartered in Norwalk, Conn., with editorial offices in Florida, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, … Read More

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