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Triglyceride Metabolism and its Impact on Human Health

  • Lipoprotein metabolism is closely linked to triglyceride levels in the blood
  • Fatty acids metabolism is a concern because high levels of fatty acids in the body can increase your risk of heart disease
  • Reducing your risk requires consuming less triglycerides and getting more exercise

Triglyceride metabolism may not be something you’ve thought about before. You may have heard your doctor mention triglycerides before but until recently most people in the medical community didn’t pay much attention to them and instead focused solely on cholesterol numbers. Now, however, a correlation has been identified between high levels of triglycerides and the risk of atherosclerosis.

Background Information

Triglycerides and cholesterol are not the same thing. They are two different forms of fat that are found in food, and they serve different purposes within the body. Triglyceride acid, for example, is an effective source of energy. In fact, it provides energy to the body at twice the rate of carbohydrates. Cholesterol is useful in the construction of new cells and the synthesis of certain hormones in the body. Part of the reason they are lumped together by physicians is that the excess of both tend to float around in the bloodstream. Another reason is their metabolism is somewhat connected.

Cholesterol Metabolism

Known as lipoprotein metabolism, this process is connected closely to triglyceride metabolism. When fats are consumed, they are metabolized in the intestines into a particle known as a chylomicron. This particle contains high levels of triglycerides, but these are removed in the next step known as lipolysis. Once the triglycerides are removed, the cholesterol is either converted into LDL (low-density lipoproteins) or goes onto the liver where it becomes synthesized into HDL (high-density lipoproteins). Another aspect of this process is known as VLDL, which is gaining a lot of attention in the medical community, too. These are a type of lipoprotein that contains a high quantity of triglyceride acid. Although not included in most cholesterol results because it is impossible to easily separate from the total triglyceride level, high levels of VLDL (very low density lipoproteins) are considered a risk factor for heart disease.

The Concern

If you’re wondering why there is so much concern over fatty acid metabolism, the answer is the health risk these high levels of lipoproteins and triglycerides pose to the body. Although the mechanism is not clear, study after study has shown strong correlations between high levels in these areas and a great risk for heart disease. Because they help cause the build up along the arteries, they can make it more likely for you to suffer a stroke or a heart attack by narrowing the path for the blood and by making clots more likely to prevent the flow of blood.

Improving Your Health

Because triglyceride metabolism is so much more efficient than that of carbohydrates, you don’t need to consume as many to get the energy you want. Most people have diets that include too much of these fatty acids so the excess not needed for energy ends up causing problems in the bloodstream. By lowering the levels of saturated fat in your diet and by exercising more, you can lower not only your levels of triglycerides but also of VLDL and LDL cholesterol.

The information supplied in this article is not to be considered as medical advice and is for educational purposes only.

2 Responses to “Triglyceride Metabolism and its Impact on Human Health”

  1. 1
    Joel Says:
    Cholesterol is a white, waxy substance which, despite its bad reputation, is essential for life. Without cholesterol our bodies could not manufacture a number of important hormones, and it also forms the outer membrane of some cells.
  2. 2
    Vaughn Says:
    Okay, so overall saturated fats are a big no-no. Are triglycerides found in anything else? Is there a way to determine triglyceride fats on a package label in order to know what you're consuming? I've always found the way fats are listed on these labels confusing because the numbers never equal up.