Q: My husband just got his cholesterol checked for the first time. His overall cholesterol was normal, but his triglycerides were high. Do you know of anything to help specifically with triglycerides?
A: Having elevated triglycerides with normal cholesterol numbers is a common occurrence. High triglycerides are often a sign of eating more than the body needs at one time, and eating too much of the wrong foods- sugars, alcohol, and processed foods are the biggest culprits. Elevated triglyceride levels can also be caused by certain medications or medical problems like for example diabetes (though it’s likely your doctor would have tested for that).
Lifestyle changes can make a significant change when it comes to lowering cholesterol. Losing weight, even small amounts, can impact triglyceride levels. Cutting out alcohol, sweets, and refined flours and grains (think anything “white”) will make a big difference. Exercising for 30 minutes per day has also been conclusively to lower triglycerides.
There are a number of supplements which can help with elevated triglycerides as well. The B vitamin niacin has been researched for lowering cholesterol. One study found that supplementation with niacin lowed LDL cholesterol by approximately 10%, triglycerides by 25%, and raised "good" HDL cholesterol by 15% to 30%. Niacin causes a “flush” however, which is a temporary warmth and redness of the skin. This is caused by the effect niacin has to dialate the blood vessels. The effect usually lasts only 10 minutes or less. Some people find the flush is lessened when niacin is taken with food. Another idea is to start with small doses several times a day so your body becomes accustomed to it.
Fish oils, specifically those high in EPA and DHA (the beneficial parts of omega-3 fatty acids) have also been researched to reduce triglycerides and overall cholesterol. The brand Solgar has a product called Omega 950 which is the highest amount of EPA and DHA per pill available anywhere. In addition to cholesterol, fish oil also helps with inflammation, mood, and brain function, so everyone would benefit adding some extra fish oil to their supplement regimen.
The supplement Sytrinol can also be helpful for lowering triglycerides. Sytrinol is a substance derived from citrus fruits. A recent study found after taking 300mg per day after 12 weeks the non-placebo group had a 30% drop in total cholesterol, 27% in LDL cholesterol, and a 34% drop in triglycerides. In addition, HDL levels increased by 4%, resulting in a significant 29% improvement in the LDL:HDL ratio. Another study had the following results after just one month: total cholesterol was lowered by 25%, bad LDL cholesterol by 19%, and triglycerides by 24%.