Triglycerides and drinking?
Originally Published: February 1, 1994 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: August 17, 2007
What does it mean if you have a high tri-glyceride level and what does it have to do with drinking?
Dear Don't mix?,
Triglycerides are the major form of fat in your body and in food. Besides supplying essential fatty acids to the body, triglycerides supply energy, allow efficient energy storage, insulate and protect the body, transport fat-soluble vitamins, provide satiety, and add flavor and texture to foods.
Fats are carried in the bloodstream by various lipoproteins (a.k.a. cholesterol), including Low Density Lipoproteins (LDLs, sometimes called "bad" cholesterol) and High Density Lipoproteins (HDLs, sometimes called "good" cholesterol). The greater the amount of triglycerides in the lipoproteins, the less their density. So, a high triglyceride level would imply a higher LDL level and/or a lower HDL-cholesterol level, both of which speed up the development of heart disease. To treat a high triglyceride level, you would want to lower your LDL level and/or raise your HDL level. This can be done in a variety of ways, including changing dietary habits and increasing exercise.
Here's where alcohol comes in: heavy drinking appears to raise a certain type of HDL-cholesterol. However, this is not recommended as a way to justify drinking and/or lower your chances of heart disease. There are too many other risks associated with heavy drinking — such as hangovers, problems keeping up with school or your job, strained relationships, accidents, liver and heart damage, and alcohol dependence — to justify using it heavily to increase your HDL level. If you or someone you know has been told that they have a high triglyceride level, your best option may be to work with a health care provider to create realistic lifestyle changes that will help lower your risks for heart disease in the future.
If you are a student at Columbia, you may visit Primary Care Medical Services to work with a clinician or nutritionist to address your triglyceride levels, or any other health issue. Call x4-2284 or log in to Open Communicator to make an appointment.