Hypertriglyceridemia, the medical name for high triglyceride levels, is common among U.S. adults. According to the National Health and Examination Survey (NHANES) conducted from 1999 to 2004, 33.1 percent of participants had a triglyceride (TG) level of 150 mg/dL or higher, while 17.9 percent of participants had levels of 200mg/dL or higher. Researchers agree that lifestyle changes are the preferred treatment for lowering triglyceride levels between 150 mg/dL and 500mg/dL compared to medication, as factors that contribute to a high triglyceride level, like obesity and high fat intake, can be modified.
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Although dietary fiber alone has not been shown to lower triglyceride levels, choosing complex carbohydrates over simple carbohydrates does decrease the levels. This could be due to the fact that consuming a diet high in fiber increases satisfaction and will help with weight management. Obesity is a major risk factor in elevated triglyceride levels; therefore, reducing caloric intake will decrease your triglyceride levels. If you have hypertriglyceridemia, choose your carbohydrate source from whole grains, whole fruits and vegetables. Avoid simple carbohydrates like white flour and sugar, white rice, fruit juices and non-diet sodas. Choose carbohydrates that have at least 3g of fiber per serving. Some choices are whole-wheat products, oatmeal, brown and wild rice. Legumes, like lentils and kidney beans, are also a great source of protein and fiber. Substitute legumes for meat at least twice a week.
Fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, rainbow trout and mackerel are good sources of omega-3 fats. High doses of omega-3 fatty acids (2 to 4g) from fish and fish oil supplements have been shown to lower triglyceride levels. Since total fat intake needs to be controlled to lower triglycerides, it is advisable to substitute meat (which contains saturated fat) with fish to keep total fat intake and calories low. Eat fatty fish at least twice a week. Fish oil supplements (4g per day) have been shown to reduce triglycerides by 30 percent. Talk to your doctor before using fish oil supplements.
Mediterranean Diet Foods
Foods from the Mediterranean diet such as vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, whole grains and fish can lower triglycerides. Replace the unhealthy fats in your diet like butter with olive oil. Remember, any excess calories, whether from healthy or unhealthy fats, will be stored as triglycerides in your body.
- Laurie Barclay, MD. Hypertriglyceridemia Is Common in US Adults.
- Covington, MB. Omega 3 Fatty Acids. American Family Physician, 2004; 70:133-40
- Rade, NP et al. Hypertriglyceridemia. Journal of American Board of Family Medicine, 2006; 19(3):310-16