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Lowering Triglycerides: Don’t Be Misguided

Posted May 06 2010 8:06pm

clogged arteries

While the Corn Refiners Association and the Sugar Association continue to sponsor studies and media campaigns to promote their “safe, natural sweeteners,” whether people know it or not, headlines are running concurrently that attest to the dangers of the over- consumption of sugars.

It was just reported that 1 in 3 American adults has elevated triglycerides,1 a condition that is now known to significantly raise risk for heart disease.  Even children can have high triglycerides, and Heartwire just reported that elevated triglyceride levels in childhood were found to significantly increase the rates of cardiovascular events like heart attack and stroke in adulthood.

I chose to write about this today because the preferred way to lower triglycerides by far, is diet and lifestyle.   The diet that is most effective for lowering triglycerides however, is not the one that is typically recommended in conventional medicine today.

For instance, the current American Heart Association recommendations for lowering triglycerides are to lose weight; to reduce intake of trans fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and alcohol; to increase intake of omega-3 fats; and  to exercise.  Removing trans fat from the diet and increasing omega-3 via fish oil are both crucial, but in our experience at LMI, these measures will have limited impact if a person’s carbohydrate intake (not fat intake) remains too high.

Elevated triglycerides are seen frequently in people with diabetes.  Diabetics have elevated triglycerides because when blood glucose is elevated, the liver converts the excesses to fat.  But you don’t have to be diabetic to have high triglycerides. Anytime you take in carbohydrates in amounts that exceed the body’s requirements for energy, you can start to raise triglycerides.

The research is pretty clear it is carbohydrates that have the biggest impact on triglycerides.  Here’s a quick rundown:

I cannot explain why the dietary recommendations aren’t being updated based on these studies.  But I can tell you that in practice we find low sugar and starch diets to be the most effective for lowering triglycerides.

Glucose and fructose are the simple sugars that most affect triglycerides.  Glucose is found in high amounts in starchy foods like potatoes, rice, and grains.  It is also found in high amounts in sugar beets and sugar cane from which granulated sugar is made.  Fructose is highest in fruits and fruit juices.  Corn starch can be dissolved to make corn syrup (which is high in both fructose and glucose) and further broken down with enzymes and lye to create high fructose corn syrup.

As Jim’s article explained, a recent study found that sweetened beverages that had more fructose than glucose had the worst impact on triglyceride production.  This is the combination of sugars that you would find in beverages like soft drinks, sweetened teas, and fruit juices that are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

So, if you have high triglycerides, the first step to take is to eliminate all sweets and sweetened soft drinks, teas, and fruit juice.  Watch for hidden sugars like sucrose, dextrose, corn syrup and HFCS on labels in other foods.  Increasing your activity can be a big help, but if your triglycerides still don’t come down to optimum levels of well under 150 mg/dL, you should also reduce your intake of starchy foods like potatoes, rice, and pasta.

If your carb restriction has to be severe in order to lower triglycerides, it is an indication that your insulin receptors could use some nutritional support. Chromium, magnesium and alpha-lipoic acid are nutrients that we find to be very effective for lowering insulin and thus triglycerides.

Alpha-lipoic acid was recently found to lower triglyceride production in mice, and not only that, it went on to reduce atherosclerotic plaques in the arteries.  The researchers noted that these results were obtained with what would be the human equivalent dosage of 2000 mg per day.7

2 Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 Jan;77(1):43-50.
3 Proc Nutr Soc. 2002 May;61(2):281-6.
4 NEJM. May 22, 2003. 348(21): 2092-90.
5 JAMA. 2007;297:969-977.
6 Nutrition & Metabolism. 2005, 2:31doi:10.1186/1743-7075-2-31.
7 Circulation. 2008;117:421-428.

[Ed. Note: Laura B. LaValle, RD, LD is presently the director of dietetics nutrition at LaValle Metabolic Institute.   Laura and her husband, Jim LaValle, R.Ph, CCN, ND have developed the powerful and life-changing Metabolic Code Dietcontaining step-by-step, easy to follow recommendations for harnessing optimal metabolic energy and turning your body’s chemical make up into a fat-burning furnace.  To learn more click here now .]

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