Dietary management in hypertriglyceridemia (high triglyceride levels in the blood) includes a balanced intake of fats and carbohydrates. Generally, hypertriglyceridemia is associated with obesity, hypertension and diabetes mellitus (sugar diabetes). These conditions should also be managed adequately, with medication, diet and lifestyle. The dietary modifications should aim for a reduction in body weight as well as a decrease in in plasma triglycerides (triglycerides in the blood).
Dietary modification as indicated by the National Cholesterol Education Program should aim for the following changes in the daily diet.
- carbohydrate intake = 55% to 60%
- protein intake = 15% to 20%
- total fat < 30%
- saturated fat < 7%
Change in plasma triglycerides due to dietary modification and weight loss is only about a 25% reduction. Therefore medication is usually necessary. It should however be noted that a very low-fat diet can increase triglyceride levels and decrease HDL cholesterol levels (“good cholesterol”). Moderation is therefore essential in dietary management.
Current guidelines advise a diet which lowers both LDL cholesterol (“bad cholesterol”) as well as triglycerides together. The LDL-C levels should be the first priority and then the triglyceride levels. Always consult with a doctor before adding supplements to your diet. The aim of a triglyceride diet is to attain the optimal triglyceride levels in the blood of less than 150 mg/dL.
Foods to Avoid and Eat in a Triglyceride Diet
A modified diet rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids is more effective than a carbohydrate-rich low-fat diet in correcting the high levels of triglycerides. The intake of saturated and trans fatty acids should be decreased. Refer to Unsaturated and Saturated Fats for a list of foods that contain saturated, unsaturated and trans fatty acids.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids from either fish or fish oil supplements significantly reduce blood triglyceride levels and these benefits appear to be dependent on the dose. Fish oil with 2 to 4 grams of these fatty acids taken daily may lower triglyceride levels significantly. However this should only be used after consulting with a medical doctor and dietitian.
The diet in most developed countries is laden with sugar and refined carbohydrates as well as saturated fats. This increases the calorie content and enhances the taste of foods. However, it is a major contributing factor to the incidence of hypertriglyceridemia.
High quantities of sugar in the diet has been shown to increase triglyceride levels and decrease HDL cholesterol levels. Even if a diet that is high in unsaturated fats and low in saturated and trans fats is adopted, it will have only a moderate effect on the plasma triglyceride levels without reducing the intake of refined carbohydrates in the diet. This includes foods that are high in added sugars like sucrose, glucose, corn syrups, concentrated fruit juice and honey.
Beverages that are high in sugar should be discontinued due to its effect on plasma triglycerides. This includes fruit juices and non-diet sodas. Alcohol should be eliminated or restricted to no more than 1 standard alcoholic beverage per day.
Dietary fiber should be increased, especially soluble fiber. Fiber binds with fats in the lumen of the gut and reduces fat absorption. For more information on foods with soluble fiber, refer to the List of High Fiber Foods.