What are triglycerides?

Triglycerides, commonly known as triacylglycerols, are the primary storage form of energy in animals. After food is consumed, digested fat (fatty acids) circulates throughout the body and is taken up by muscle, adipocytes (fat cells), and other energy-demanding tissues. The excess is processed and stored in the liver as triglycerides. When the body needs to rely on its stored energy, such as while fasting, triglycerides are mobilized in a process called lipolysis (fat breakdown). If more triglycerides are stored than are used, this accumulation can be associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes, and increased cardiovascular risk. According to Cleveland Clinic, 1 in 4 Americans have high triglycerides.

Why is it included in the Cardiovascular Axis?

Abnormally high triglyceride levels increase the risk of atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in arteries), which can lead to cardiovascular events such as carotid artery disease, heart attack, metabolic syndrome, and stroke. High triglycerides can be linked to underlying causes such as diabetes, thyroid disease, and certain medications, to name a few. Risk factors for high triglycerides include family history, menopause, pregnancy, HIV, metabolic disorders, and being of South Asian ancestry. Because of its significance to our health, triglycerides are included in SiPhox Health's base panel.

How can I better understand my results?

The American Board of Internal Medicine released reference ranges for fasting triglyceride to assist in interpretation:

  • Optimal: < 100 mg/dL
  • Normal: < 150 mg/dL
  • Borderline High: 150 - 199 mg/dL
  • High: 200 - 499 mg/dL
  • Very High: > 500 mg/dL

While an optimal level is considered under 100 mg/dL, under 50 mg/dL may indicate hypotriglyceridemia. If you are concerned with any of your results, please consult with your physician.

If you have high triglycerides, you can try:

Where can I learn more?

Peter Attia has a great breakdown of triglycerides as they relate to cardiovascular risk

The American Heart Association’s interpretation of triglyceride levels and your health

Read The Lancet’s review article on triglycerides and cardiovascular risk