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What Causes High Triglycerides in a Skinny Person?

author image Kristin Conley, R.D.
Kristin Conley is a registered dietitian and writes nutrition articles for hospital staff and patients on an ongoing basis. She has worked as a clinical dietitian in a hospital setting for more than seven years. Conley specializes in teaching individuals how to balance nutrition and lifestyle with their medical conditions.
What Causes High Triglycerides in a Skinny Person?
A slender person eating and drinking in a restaurant. Photo Credit: AID/a.collectionRF/amana images/Getty Images

Triglycerides are a type of fat that circulates in the bloodstream. After you eat a meal, any calories that are not needed for immediate use are converted into triglycerides. Triglycerides can then be used for energy between meals. Although triglycerides play an important role in body function, elevated triglycerides can be harmful to your health. High triglyceride levels are associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Elevated triglycerides are often associated with obesity, but a number of factors can cause elevated triglycerides even in people at a healthy body weight.

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Sugary Foods

Foods that are high in sugar and refined grains can cause elevated triglycerides regardless of a person's body weight. To reduce triglyceride levels, limit your intake of sugary foods such as soda, candy, ice cream, syrup and jelly. Artificial sweeteners can be used in place of sugar to provide a sweet flavor without contributing to high triglyceride levels. Daily sugar intake should be limited to no more than 8 percent of your daily calories. Refined grains, including white bread, white rice and pasta, are quickly converted into sugar in the body, elevating triglyceride levels. Whole grain breads, cereals, crackers, pasta and brown rice convert more slowly into glucose.


In addition to simple sugars and refined grains, alcohol can cause high triglyceride levels, even for people at a healthy body weight. The American Heart Association states that even small amounts of alcohol intake can have a big impact on triglyceride levels. Reducing your alcohol intake can help lower triglycerides to a healthy level. Your doctor can tell you what a safe amount of alcohol is for your.

Dietary Fat

People at a healthy body weight may have elevated triglycerides because of the types of fat they eat. To reduce triglyceride levels, the American Heart Association recommends decreasing saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol intake. Saturated fat is found primarily in animal products, including fatty cuts of red meat, whole milk, cheese, butter and lard. Animal products are high in cholesterol as well. Trans fats are found in commercial baked goods and fried foods. Replace unhealthy oils and fats with monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil or canola oil. Omega-3 fatty acids have also been proven to decrease triglycerides. Include fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, sardines, tuna and tilapia in your diet.


Regardless of body weight, exercise can play an important role in healthy triglyceride levels. The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise at least five days a week. Regular physical activity can help decrease triglycerides and other types of cholesterol that can lead to heart disease, while boosting the good type of cholesterol.

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