A client of mine recently had a very upsetting blood test result-- her total cholesterol levels were well over 300, and her triglyceride levels were, as well. Her doctor immediately wanted to put her on statin drugs. Statins are widely prescribed for cholesterol; however, they have several pretty awful side effects and are not even truly proven to prevent coronary incidents. Not only that, but there is some controversy as to exactly how much a relationship there is between cholesterol and heart disease.
What does seem to be more significant than cholesterol levels and heart disease is triglyceride levels. Ideally, triglyceride levels should be below150 mg/dL (or 1.7 mmol/L for our metric system users). So what do you do if your tri's are high? First of all, let's discuss what makes those numbers go up:
High Fructose Corn Syrup and Corn Syrup: These icky substances are in more packaged foods than you may realize. Get in the habit of reading your labels so you can avoid this nastiness. Corn syrups of both varieties have been shown to increase triglyceride levels in humans. (1) (2) (3), although these claims should be taken, so to speak, with a grain of salt.
A high glycemic load diet seems to put women, but not men, at a higher risk for cardiovascular events. Stay away from sugars and processed foods (duh).
The following conditions can cause high triglycerides:
-high alcohol consumption
The following medications are among those have been shown to raise triglyceride levels:
-Diuretics such as Thiazides
-Birth control pills, depending on estrogen content
-Steroids such as Prednisone
There is also a genetic component to high triglyceride levels (1) (2) (3)
So what can you do to lower your triglyceride levels? There are a number of dietary and lifestyle modifications you can make to get your numbers back to healthy levels. Here are some:
First and foremost, you know the drill:
EAT YOUR VEGGIES AND FRUITS (1) (2) (3) (4) (5)
EXERCISE (1) (2) (3) (although this may not be as useful for already fit individuals)
Foods high in nitric oxide/nitrites/nitrates, such as beets and green leafies, are excellent for the heart and have been shown to significantly reduce triglyceride levels. (1) (2) (3)
Cocoa. Chocolate lovers, rejoice! Cocoa is very cardio-protective. (1) (2) (3) Just make sure you keep it sugar-free (or as much as possible) and make sure the cocoa content is as high as possible (minimum 70%) and as unprocessed as possible (raw cacao is ideal).
Oregano. I love oregano oil for its antibacterial qualities, especially during cold and flu season. However, intake of oregano oil also seems to significantly lower triglyceride levels. (1) (2) Rosemary, Sage, Garlic, and Melissa (lemon balm) have also shown some promise. Most of these studies have been done on animals, however, so human studies really need to be done before any conclusions can really be made here. However, they're all great herbs with plenty of health benefits, so no harm in making liberal use of them!
Niacin. This B vitamin lowers triglycerides (1) (2) and is present in the following foods:
-Marmite (I may be the only American to love this yeast spread, but yes, it is very high in B vitamins!)
-Rice and wheat bran
-Sun-dried tomatoes (NOM)
Tocotrienols: Tocotrienols are members of the Vitamin E family. The richest sources come from these oils:
However, you would have to eat fairly large amounts of these oils in order to get what you need as far as tocotrienols. The best thing in this particular case would to take a supplement (here are some decent ones from brands I have used and trust (I do not push supplements, nor do I make any money off of them):
Red yeast rice seems to be very useful for lowering triglycerides. (1) (2) (3) You can buy red yeast rice supplements easily online; as with all supplements, make sure you get a reputable brand. Do your research. I do know Now Foods makes a good red yeast rice supplement.
Omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to provide good cardiovascular protection. (1) (2) (3) While many like to get their Omegas from fish oil, I prefer algae oil.
In some studies, cinnamon appears to have a favorable effect on blood lipid levels (and is nummy, too). (1) (2) (3) However, results are varied in studies, and are also dependent on the health of the individuals and on the variety of cinnamon used (there are many kinds of cinnamon).
Capsaicin (the stuff that makes hot peppers hot) may to be useful in lowering triglycerides (and, let's face it, chili makes everything better). (1) (2) Again, however, the results are inconsistent.
I believe the best approach to triglyceride-lowering would be a multi-pronged approach. Try combining some of these treatments along with a very healthy, very low processed food/sugar, very high veggie diet, and see what happens! Results may not occur for six weeks or more, so be patient.
Questions? Comments? Post 'em here!