How Much You Know About 'Triglycerides'?

By Dr Harold Gunatillake - Health Writer

Triglycerides is not manufactured in the body, but really absorbed through digestion of fatty foods. The body has a mechanism to maintain a normal level of Triglycerides in the blood like it does with other chemicals including cholesterol. The breakdown process (lipolysis) of triglycerides is caused by lipo-protein lipase (LPL) – an enzyme secreted in your muscle cells and fat cells. Then it gets into the blood stream and hydrolyses (breakdown) the lipoprotein-triglycerides. If there is no lipase (LPL), triglycerides will accumulate in the blood vessels.

Triglycerides are fatty oily substances and they to be friendly in water soluble, blood needs a lipoprotein: just as with cholesterol-LDL and HDL-combining with a lipo-protein to become water mixable)

Some people seem to suffer from high triglyceride levels, and they are at risk of atherosclerosis (thickening of arteries) and cardiovascular disease. This may be due to defective transport of LPL, which normally breakdown triglycerides in the capillaries.

Consuming too much of carbohydrates also increases the level of triglycerides in your blood. People with high triglycerides may also need to limit their intake of carbohydrates to no more than 45-50 per cent of total calories. The reason is that carbohydrates raise triglycerides in some people with lower HDL cholesterol levels. People with diabetes will find it difficult to control their triglyceride level within the normal range, until the glucose level in blood is well controlled and stabilised. This is as we consider a part of the metabolic syndrome.Sometimes high triglycerides are a sign of poorly controlled type 2 diabetes, low levels of thyroid hormones (hypothyroidism), liver or kidney disease, or rare genetic conditions that affect how your body converts fat to energy. High triglycerides could also be a side effect of taking medications such as beta blockers, birth control pills, diuretics, steroids or the breast cancer drug tamoxifen.

The enzyme pancreatic lipase acts at the ester bond (hydroxyl and carboxyl groups linkage), at the bond where glycerol (OH) is joined with COOH) of the fatty acid. In triglyceride form, lipids cannot be absorbed by the gut (duodenum). Fatty acids, monoglycerides (one glycerol joined with one fatty acid) and some diglycerides are absorbed directly in the duodenum, once the triglyceride is broken down by pancreatic lipase. So remember, the fatty acids in oils used for temporising and frying purposes, and fatty acids in meat being triglycerides, are digested with the action of lipase secreted in the pancreas, and bile, then absorbed into the enterocytes, the cells lining the intestines. Then, triglycerides are rebuilt in the enterocytes from their fragments and packed together with cholesterol and proteins to form chylomicrons.These chylomicrons are transported in the large lymphatic vessels near the heart before being mixed into the blood.

Chains lengths of the fatty acids in naturally occurring triglycerides can be of varying length. Coconut meat has saturated fatty acids, mainly in the form of medium chained monoglycerides (Lauric acid, myristic acid and capric acid) containing about eleven carbon atoms (hence called medium chained), and are directly absorbed through the gut into the portal venous system to enter the liver for metabolic purposes. Natural fatty acids found in plants, mainly in the seeds and pulses) are typically composed of even numbers of carbon atoms (16, 18, 20) due to the way they are bio-synthesised from acetyl CoA.

Why do we carry Triglycerides in our blood?
Triglycerides as major component of very low density lipo-protein (VLDL) and chylomicrons participate in a major role in metabolism as energy sources and transporters of dietary fat. Fats contain twice as much energy (9kcal/g) as carbohydrates and proteins.

Chylomicrons containing the triglycerides are distributed to the various tissues releasing the triglycerides to be used as a source of energy.

Fat and liver cells, too can synthesise and store triglycerides. When the body needs energy from fatty acid sources, the liver produces a hormone called glucagon, which signals the breakdown of triglycerides by hormone sensitive lipase to release free fatty acids.

The brain cannot use fatty acids as an energy source unless broken down into ketone bodies, as at times of starvation. The glycerol component of the fatty acids is converted into glucose, via a process called gluconeogenesis when the brain needs fuel. As mentioned earlier the triglycerides are broken down within the blood vessels through lipoprotein lipases into free fatty acids and glycerol. Fatty acids are then taken up by cells via the fatty acid transport system.

Triglycerides and disease
In the human body, high levels of triglycerides in the blood stream have been linked to atherosclerosis (thickening of arteries with plaque formation), and increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.

The American Heart Association has set guidelines for triglyceride levels: Please note that this information is relevant to triglyceride levels as tested after fasting 8 to 12 hours. Triglyceride levels remain temporarily higher for a period of time after eating.

Reducing triglyceride levels in blood:
Reduce your daily carbohydrate consumption, such as rice, cakes and bread.Avoid sugary and refined foods. Simple carbohydrates, such as sugar and foods made with white flour, can increase triglycerides
Reduce eating fatty hot junk food. Avoid Transfats by not consuming, commercial baked products, such as cookies, crackers and snack cakes.
Heavy use of alcohol too can elevate triglyceride levels. Drugs like the fibrates have been used to bring down the triglyceride levels in the blood. Losing body weight may bring down your triglyceride levels.

Regular exercise will use ore triglycerides for energy and bring down the levels. Medications that reduce triglycerides are Niacin, Fibrates, Statins, Omega-3 fish oil supplements, Mediterranean meals.

A single junk food meal – composed mainly of saturated fat – is detrimental to the health of the arteries, while no damage occurs after consuming a Mediterranean meal rich in good fats such as mono-and polyunsaturated fatty acids, according to researchers at the University of Montreal-affiliated éPICCenter of the Montreal Heart Institute. The Mediterranean meal may even have a positive effect on the arteries. The findings are being presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress, by the head of the study, Dr Anil Nigam, Director of Research at the Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation Centre (éPIC) and associate professor at the university's Faculty of Medicine. Difference between triglycerides and cholesterol: Triglycerides and cholesterol are separate types of lipids that circulate in your blood. Triglycerides store unused calories and provide your body with energy, and cholesterol is used to build cells and certain hormones

Lifestyle changes reduce triglycerides
People who take steps to alter their lifestyles and eat healthier diets can significantly reduce high levels of triglycerides, associated with heart and blood vessel problems and other diseases, the American Heart Association says in a new scientific statement. Changes can include substituting healthy, unsaturated dietary fats for saturated ones, exercising, and losing weight, which could reduce triglycerides by 20% to 50%, the AHA statement says. "The good news is that high triglycerides can, in large part, be reduced through major lifestyle changes," Michael Miller, MD, professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, says in a news release.

Omega 3 fish oil
Special emphasis needs to be made, and studies have shown taking fish oil daily reduces the triglyceride levels in blood. Fish consumption is considered one of the key components of a cardio-protective diet. Current cardiovascular guidelines for healthy individuals encourage consumption of a variety of fish, preferably oily types, at least twice a week. Cold water oily fish and fish oil are also the most common dietary sources of long chain omega 3 fatty acids, a group of polyunsaturated fats that primarily include eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid. Studies show that regular consumption of both these fats as supplements may reduce arrhythmias, endothelial dysfunction, circulating triglyceride levels, and inflammation.

When you take fish oil supplements, you not only consume essential fatty acids mentioned above, but also essential amino acids and trace elements, such as taurine, arginine, selenium. Also you take a good source of vitamin D and B complex. These nutrients may also help to bring down the triglycerides and provide favourable cardi-vascular effects.

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