Triglyceride Test
(Triglycerides)

Medical Author:
Medical Editor:

Triglyceride test facts*

*Triglyceride test facts medical author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

  • Triglycerides are the main ingredient in vegetable oils and animal fats.
  • The triglyceride test measures the level of triglycerides in the blood.
  • Fasting for 9 to 12 hours before the test is required.
  • Elevated triglyceride levels may be a risk factor for atherosclerosis. Highly elevated triglyceride levels may also cause fatty liver disease and pancreatitis.
  • High triglyceride levels can also be associated with diabetes, kidney disease, and the use of some medications.
  • Normal triglyceride levels in the blood are less than 150 mg per deciliter (mg/dL).
  • Triglyceride levels can be controlled to some extent by lifestyle modifications and, when necessary, medications.

What are triglycerides?

Triglycerides are chemical compounds digested by the body to provide it with the energy for metabolism. Triglycerides are the most common form of fat that we digest, and are the main ingredient in vegetable oils and animal fats.

The triglyceride molecule is a form of the chemical glycerol (tri=three molecules of fatty acid + glyceride=glycerol) that contains three fatty acids. To be absorbed, these parts are broken apart in the small intestine, and afterwards are reassembled with cholesterol to form chylomicrons. This is the source of energy for cells in the body. Fat cells and liver cells are used as storage sites and release chylomicrons when the body needs the energy.

Elevated triglyceride levels are a risk factor for atherosclerosis, the narrowing of arteries with the buildup of fatty plaques that may lead to heart attack, stroke, and peripheral artery disease. Markedly elevated triglyceride levels may also cause fatty liver disease and pancreatitis.

Elevated triglyceride levels in the blood may be associated with other diseases including:

  • poorly-controlled diabetes,
  • kidney disease,
  • some medications (for example, beta blockers, diuretics, birth control pills).

Alcohol consumption can raise triglyceride blood levels by causing the liver to produce more fatty acids. However, there are some beneficial aspects of moderate alcohol consumption, defined as one alcoholic beverage per day (a glass of wine, a bottle of beer, or an ounce of hard liquor), that may balance this triglyceride rise. Moderate consumption may mildly increase HDL (the good cholesterol) levels in the bloodstream and red wine, which contains antioxidants, may decrease the risk of heart disease. However, it is not recommended that people start to drink alcohol to obtain these effects.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/29/2014

Patient Comments

Viewers share their comments

Triglyceride - Diet Question: What dietary changes are you using to help lower your triglycerides?
Triglyceride Test - Results Question: Were you surprised at your triglyceride test results? Why or why not?

How to Lower Triglycerides

Triglycerides, which are produced in the liver, are another type of fat found in the blood and in food. Causes of raised triglycerides are overweight/obesity, physical inactivity, cigarette smoking, excess alcohol intake, and a diet very high in carbohydrates (60 percent of calories or higher). Recent research indicates that triglyceride levels that are borderline high (150-199 mg/dL) or high (200-499 mg/dL) may increase your risk for heart disease. (Levels of 500 mg/dL or more need to be lowered with medication to prevent the pancreas from becoming inflamed.) A triglyceride level of 150 mg/dL or higher also is one of the risk factors of the metabolic syndrome (see pages 70-72).

To reduce blood triglyceride levels: control your weight, be physically active, don't smoke, limit alcohol intake, and limit simple sugars and sugar-sweetened beverages. Sometimes, medication also is needed.

SOURCE:
NIH National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute

STAY INFORMED

Get the Latest health and medical information delivered direct to your inbox!