Triglyceride levels rise and fall depending on how much fat the body stores. Doctors are generally more concerned about high levels of triglyceride, described as a blood level of 150 mg/dL or higher, than they are about low triglyceride levels. Michael Miller, M.D. of the University of Maryland reports that triglyceride levels above 100 mg/dL may increase the risk of heart disease by 50 percent. But low triglycerides may indicate the presence of disease, registered dietitian Jane Korsberg of Case Western Reserve University reports.
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Like high triglyceride levels, low triglyceride levels in and of themselves cause no specific symptoms. You can’t tell you have low or high triglycerides or cholesterol based upon the way you feel. Low triglyceride levels are diagnosed by having blood drawn after fasting for 12 hours.
Diseases that deplete fat stores such as malnutrition can cause very low triglyceride levels, according to MedlinePlus. Symptoms of malnutrition might include lethargy, feeling cold, dry, thin, inelastic skin, brittle, sparse, lifeless hair, muscle wasting, diarrhea and weight loss. A person with malnutrition may also develop frequent infections since the immune system doesn’t function well enough to fight them off.
Hyperthyroidism can cause metabolism to speed up, resulting in weight loss and possibly also causing low triglyceride levels, according to Korsberg. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include rapid heartbeat, weight loss, anxiety, sweating, increased appetite, fatigue, tremor, irritability or difficulty sleeping. Older adults may not develop all the symptoms of hyperthyroidism, especially if they take beta blocker medications, which can mask the symptoms, MayoClinic.com reports.
A number of diseases can cause malabsorption, the inability of the body to absorb nutrients through the intestine. Diseases such as cystic fibrosis, celiac disease, certain types of cancer, weight-loss bypass surgery and familial diseases such as hypobetalipoproteinemia can cause malabsorption of fats and low triglyceride levels. Symptoms vary depending on the disorder but generally include failure to thrive syndrome in infants, poor growth, weight loss and muscle wasting. Gastrointestinal manifestations include bloating, gas, diarrhea, bulky, greasy stools that float and abdominal cramping.