Why To Lower Triglycerides, and Not Cholesterol

Why To Lower Triglycerides, and Not Cholesterol

In This Article

Dietary Guidelines

Early this year, the new dietary guidelines for 2015 to 2020 were published. Saturated fats that are high in cholesterol were taken off the nutrient concern list after almost 60 years, suggesting that the “no cholesterol” era may have been based on a hasty misinterpretation of the science. (1) >>> Read more on this here

While studies have found that high cholesterol is not necessarily associated with heart and circulatory concerns, there is emerging science suggesting that triglycerides are. Triglycerides are the fats that are made from any extra calories you don’t use as energy right away.

apples on a table

For example, fructose is a sugar that is easily converted into triglyceride fat and, as a result, gets some bad press from the Paleo camps. But wait, when we think about fruits and when they were harvested, we see that the sweetest fruits with the most fructose are harvested in the fall.  So, gorging on fruits in the fall tends to deliver seasonal high levels of fructose. The excess fructose that is not used as fuel is stored in the fat as triglycerides to prepare for winter.

The cool thing about triglycerides is that the body will draw on those triglyceride stores to make energy during say, a winter’s hibernation, or help deliver energy between meals.  It makes pretty good sense that we would all eat more fruit in the fall — when it is ripe so that we could add a layer of triglyceride fatty insulation to help endure winter.

The body will convert any extra calories from overeating into triglycerides, which, when high, is linked to a host of heart and circulatory health concerns. Bottom line: Americans eat too much and the extra is the cause of the problem. Sugar may be our worst enemy, as it delivers only a short burst of energy, which leaves us craving and thus eating all too frequently. The more frequently we eat, the greater the risk of overshooting the energy runway, and the extra is stored as potentially dangerous fat

The key to maintaining healthy triglycerides is dependent on a handful of factors:

  1. Maintaining an active non-sedentary lifestyle. (2)
  2. Maintaining healthy weight. (2)
  3. Maintaining a healthy, whole foods diet. (2)
  4. Avoiding bad processed fats. (2)
  5. Ingesting good fats, like marine-based omega-3 fatty acids. (3)

According to the American Heart Association, triglycerides should be kept below 100mg/dL. (2) This is important because according to the 2015-2020 FDA Dietary Guideline, 31% of Americans have high triglyceride levels over 150mg/dL, which is high even by the more conservative standards. (1)

In one study involving over 13,000 men from ages 26 to 45 who were followed for 10 years, there was a four-fold increase in heart-related events in the group with the highest triglyceride levels compared to the group with the lowest levels. (4)

The problem with having chronically high levels of triglycerides is that they are commonly associated with low HDL levels. HDL cholesterols are the fats that carry the bad fats out of the body and the arterial walls. The result is linked to congestion within the arteries, blood sugar concerns and heart health issues. (1)

In the scientific journal, Circulation, published for the American Heart Association, a Harvard study suggests that a strong link exists between triglyceride levels and HDL as a predictor of heart disease. (6,7) These two tests will appear on every cholesterol test you have had done in the past 20 years, so pull it out and follow along:

On your blood test, just divide the triglycerides by the HDL number to get your Triglyceride/HDL ratio. For example, if your triglycerides are 100 and your HDL levels are 50, you have a ratio of “2,” because you have twice the amount of triglycerides as you do HDL levels. (100/50=2)

In the study, those with the highest ratio had up to sixteen times the risk of cardiovascular issues. A good ratio is a “2,” like in our example above. A problematic ratio is a “5” or higher.

So, if your ratio is above a “2,” there is strong evidence suggesting that you have an increased risk for blood sugar, lipid profile and/or cardiovascular issues.

Fast Food

Fast foods are known to be higher fat meals that use poor quality oils that have been cooked or fried. In one study, they measured the after-meal triglyceride spikes from eating fast food, which is linked to a host of health issues. When participants ate a meal with 15 grams of fat, the triglyceride levels spiked a healthy 20%. When they ate a high-fat meal with 50 grams of fat, the triglyceride levels spiked by a dangerous 50%. (5)

The Mediterranean Diet, which is a higher “healthy” fat diet, was shown to reduce triglycerides 10-15% more than when a strict low-fat diet was followed. Triglyceride levels are also related to weight. The more pounds you lose, the lower the triglyceride levels go.

Fish Oils

fish oil capsules

Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oils, such as EPA or DHA, have been shown to reduce triglyceride levels in numerous studies. In one study, triglyceride levels fell by 25-30% when 4000mg of fish-based omega-3 oils were ingested daily. (8) For every 1000mg of DHA/EPA ingested daily, there was a 5-10% reduction in blood triglycerides.

Plant-based omega-3 fatty acids from chia, flax and walnuts are incredibly healthy, but they seem to work in a different way than the fish oils do. I suggest molecularly distilled, purified fish oils that are naturally enteric coated, so they are delivered at higher rates to the intestinal skin, blood, brain, heart, hormones, liver and skin. (9)



Amalaki (Emblica officinalis) is well-known as one of the most potent sources of natural full-spectrum vitamin C, which can only be derived from our foods. After much investigative research, it turns out that amalaki or 1 amla berry has about 10 times more vitamin C than one orange by weight. (12) Unlike most forms of vitamin C, which are acidic and can cause loose stools at higher doses, amalaki is alkaline and aids in supporting and firming bowel movements. Amalaki has a long history of support for the health of the intestinal skin, and now studies are confirming the relationship between intestinal health and healthy cholesterol and blood sugar. (10,11)

Linked to the health of the intestinal tract, amalaki was shown to raise healthy HDLs by an astonishing 18%. In addition, amalaki was linked to healthy cholesterol across the board. (13)


  1. http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/
  2. https://circ.ahajournals.org/content/123/20/2292.full.pdf+html
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7852747
  4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17876021
  5. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/67/1/31.abstract
  6. Sinatra, Bowden. The Great Cholesterol Myth. 2012. Fair Winds Press
  7. Fasting Triglycerides, High Density Lipoproteins. Circulation 96, no. 8 (1997):2520-25
  8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9129504
  9. http://store.lifespa.com/mega_omega_fish_oil.html
  10. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21495900
  11. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19152656
  12. https://lifespa.com/amalaki-the-best-vitamin-c-berry/
  13. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3735284/

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Dr. John

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