Triglycerides are simply excess calories stored in the body to provide energy for cell functioning. Elevated triglyceride levels greater than 150 mg/dL can contribute to the hardening of the artery walls, which in turn can increase your risk for heart disease and stroke. While high triglycerides are often an indication of obesity or an unmanaged health condition like diabetes or even kidney disease, alcohol consumption can also play a role in raising triglyceride levels.
Alcohol and Triglycerides
Excess drinking can raise triglycerides in addition to raising your blood pressure and providing you with extra calories. You don't need to be a big drinker to see its effects, according to the American Heart Association, as even small amounts of alcohol can cause large changes in your triglyceride levels.
How Alcohol Works in the Body
Animal studies suggest alcohol use can lead to a fatty liver, a condition that is often a precursor to hepatitis and/or cirrhosis of the liver. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, or NIAAA, alcohol intake reduces the liver's ability to oxidize compounds correctly, which in turn can lead to an increased process by which free fatty acids are transformed into triglycerides. Of the eight million people in the U.S. who suffer from alcoholism and who have a fatty liver, the NIAAA predicts that at least one-fifth will develop hepatitis or cirrhosis if they do not stop drinking.
If you drink alcoholic beverages and have high triglycerides, alcohol reduction can go along way toward bringing these levels back to normal. For best results, the Cleveland Clinic recommends limiting your intake to just 5 oz. per day or to cut it out of your diet completely.
While reducing or eliminating alcohol can play a major role in achieving a healthy triglyceride level, the American Heart Association says that a heart healthy diet coupled with an exercise regimen are also critical. This diet should reduce your calories from fats, protein and carbohydrates, substitute monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats like those found in canola or olive oil for saturated fats, and substitute fatty meats for leaner versions or omega-3 rich fish.