Diet and Weight Loss Come Before Medications in Reducing Triglyceride Levels

To lower triglyceride levels, change your lifestyle rather than taking drugs. So states a November special article in Clinical Nutrition Insight.

First of all, what are triglycerides? According to, they are “the major form of fat stored by the body.” Triglycerides come from both the food we eat as well as being produced by the body. Elevated triglyceride levels are a risk factor for atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and inflammation of the pancreas. You can also think of them as cholesterol transporters. High levels of fat and alcohol intake cause triglyceride levels to spike, which is not desirable.

So what are the necessary lifestyle changes? Good nutrition and exercise. The authors go so far as to recommend diet and weight loss as the primary solution over than medications. This may seem obvious, yet is a breakthrough since it comes from the medical community. Written by Michael Miller, MD, Penny Kris-Etherton, PhD, and Neil Stone, MD, the revised guidelines have garnered attention for also lowering the upper limit for the “optimal level” of triglycerides from 150 to 100 mg/dL.

As part of the suggested dietary changes, the authors want us to reduce the intake of simple carbohydrates, increase dietary fiber intake, and restrict fructose in our diets. Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) and a Mediterranean diet are also recommended. According to the study authors, these dietary changes can “result in a marked triglyceride-lowering effect that ranges from 20% to as high as 50% or greater.”

As to weight loss, exercise is the obvious companion to dietary improvements. Since obesity is a key contributor to hypertriglyceridemia (elevated triglyceride concentration in the blood), especially in the visceral (surrounding the abdominal organs) region, the most straightforward solution to lowering triglyceride levels is getting out of the range for obesity and overweight. For every 2.2 pounds (1 kg) of weight lost, there is a concomitant reduction in triglyceride levels of 1.5 mg/dL (about 1.9%). As visceral fat levels decrease, so does the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

On a related note, the authors of the study want to make clear that they are not dismissing the value of medications; in fact, they think drug therapy is appropriate for patients with very high fasting triglyceride levels of 500 mg/dL or higher. Their purpose is to make weight loss and dietary improvements the focus of effective treatment for elevated triglyceride levels. They are so committed to sharing this emphasis on lifestyle changes, that they are making the November, 2011 issue of Clinical Nutrition Insight freely available at

Alexandra Williams

Alexandra Williams, MA (counseling) is one-half of humorous expert fitness advice columnists, Fun and Fit, which she writes with her identical twin sister, Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA.

One thought on “Diet and Weight Loss Come Before Medications in Reducing Triglyceride Levels

  • October 26, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    I hate to say that I am inconsistent with my health and workouts but everytime that I suffer an injury I find that my health level drops including energy and focus (I think it would be hard to measure my own triglycerides) and when I make a comeback to exercise my body feels great within a couple of days and my health and breathing are way better.

    I only wish non-exercisers could experience this as well so that htey could see how critical a little running, weights, and biking can change their outlook, health and body


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