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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diet and Nutrition > Triglycerides


Overview & Description | Functions and Sources

Triglycerides are a common form of fat found in both food and the body. They make up 95% of the fat in the foods a person eats. They're also found in blood plasma and along with cholesterol, they make up the plasma lipids. Triglycerides occur naturally in foods. The liver also makes them from carbohydrates when calories are eaten that are not needed right away. They are stored in the body's fat tissue. Certain hormones control the release of triglycerides from the body's fat tissue as more energy is needed between meals.


The National Cholesterol Education Program, which is a part of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, put out new guidelines for healthy fasting blood triglyceride levels in 2001. They are as follows:

  • 150mg/dL = Normal (healthy) range
  • 150 to 199 mg/dL = Borderline-high range
  • 200 to 499 mg/dL = High range
  • 500 mg/dL or higher = Very high range
  • Changes in lifestyle will help lower blood levels of triglycerides to a healthy level. These include:

  • losing weight, if overweight
  • being physically active for 30 minutes per day at least 5 days a week
  • eating less saturated fats and cholesterol, by following a low-fat diet where fat is 30 percent or less of total daily calorie, with less than 10 percent of that from saturated fat
  • eating plenty of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables
  • drinking no more than two alcohol drinks per day (for men) or one per day (for women)
  • eating less carbohydrates, such as high-sugar desserts and snacks, sweeteners, and sweetened beverages
  • eating more fish such as trout, sardines, tuna, and salmon, which are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids, and may help keep triglyceride levels stable
  • stopping smoking
  • substituting healthier forms of fat such as canola oil, olive oil, and liquid margarine for saturated fats
  • When a person has his or her blood cholesterol checked, the doctor may also check triglycerides. This is most often done when people have other risk factors for heart disease, such as:

  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • obesity
  • smoking
  • diabetes
  • chronic kidney disease
  • circulatory problems
  • A fatty meal that is high in triglycerides will cause a short-term jump in blood cholesterol levels. Because of this, people must fast for 12 hours before a blood test. A person should have two or three tests, one week apart, for the most accurate results.

    Triglyceride levels can be affected by any or all of the following factors.

  • alcohol intake
  • medicine
  • hormones
  • diet
  • menstrual cycle
  • time of day
  • recent exercise
  • Medicines may be used in people with very high triglyceride levels if they have:

  • diagnosed heart disease
  • a family history of high triglycerides, known as familial hypertriglyceridemia
  • consistent high cholesterol levels with low levels of HDL


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    Triglycerides: Functions and Sources

    Author: Kelly Streit, MS, RD, LD
    Reviewer: Kimberly A. Tessmer, RD, LD
    Date Reviewed: 05/30/00

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