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Exercise and Diet for Lowering Your Triglycerides

Updated on May 4, 2020
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Before we dive further into this article, let us first see what triglycerides or triacylglycerol’s, as they are rightly called.

Triglycerides are the main form of fat stored in our body. In simple terms, triglycerides are fat. More specifically, they are glycerol esters with 3 fatty acids and are hydrophobic molecules that are transferred into the bloodstream with lipoproteins.

Very low density lipoproteins (VLDL) are the main carriers of triglycerides in the blood at the fasting stage. In the postprandial stage, triglycerides are transported either through the gums that carry the lipids of the food or through the very low density lipoproteins (VLDL), which carry the lipids that the body synthesizes to the liver.

Exercise is a key factor when it comes to reducing your triglycerides levels
Exercise is a key factor when it comes to reducing your triglycerides levels | Source

But why are we interested in triglyceride levels in the blood?

We are interested because elevated triglyceride levels are an integral part of metabolic syndrome characterized by central obesity, low levels of "good" cholesterol, and high levels of triglycerides, blood glucose and high blood pressure. Triglycerides levels are also one of the criteria for diagnosing this syndrome, a syndrome with high prevalence. For example, in Greece of 18%, based on an Attica study data, and 25%, based on data from the MetS-Greece Multicentre study.

At the same time, high triglyceride levels are the second prevalent dyslipidaemia in patients with coronary artery disease, prevalent in high cholesterol levels which are mainly found in low density lipoproteins (LDL) and are considered "bad" cholesterol. As triglyceride levels in the blood increase, the risk of coronary heart disease increases, which is observed in both sexes. Meta-analysis showed that for every 1 millimole per litre an increase in triglyceride levels at the fasting stage increases the risk of coronary artery disease by 14% in men and by 37% in women. Conversely, if we are talking about triglyceride levels in the postprandial stage (2-4 hours after the last meal), the risk for cardiovascular disease quadruples.

Therefore, it appears that triglyceride levels in the postprandial stage are probably a stronger risk factor of cardiovascular disease than triglyceride levels at the fasting stage. Therefore, interventions that reduce blood triglycerides at the fasting stage, as well as in the postprandial stage, are considered necessary for the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular diseases.

How to reduce triglyceride levels?

But let's see if exercise and diet can lower blood triglyceride levels. Several studies have shown that a single exercise session is capable of reducing blood triglycerides at the fasting stage the next day.

This decrease is in the range of 15 to 30 %, a reduction that could be said to be clinically significant, since such a decrease occurs after the use of medication. But how long does this reduction last? After exercise, and for about 12 to 24 hours, triglyceride levels decrease significantly. Later they increase, but remain reduced compared to before exercise, for 2 to 3 days after exercise. Studies have shown so far that the effects of exercise are not the result of a workout but a result of the last exercise session.

It is important to stress that exercise does not need to be continuous, but can also be a 10-minute period break. It has been shown that energy expenditure rather than the intensity of exercise is the factor that determines the effect.

But how much exercise is needed?

In order to have the needed effect, exercise must be accompanied by a calorie deficit of 500-600 calories or more. However, if we combine gentle exercise, with consumption of 300 calories, with a mild hypocaloric diet with a reduction in calorie intake by 300 calories, triglyceride levels in the fasting and postprandial stage are reduced by about 20%.

This combination is a more practical and achievable goal than exercise alone, especially for people who cannot exercise for prolonged time in moderate to high tensions, like many people who follow sedentary lifestyles.

Reduction of calorie intake can be easily achieved by a small reduction in the food portion or by reducing the order of 30 grams in fatty meat, 1 slice of bread, 2 tablespoons of butter and one cup of soft drink or better yet start eating foods that will help you live longer and reverse the high triglycerides in your body.

An increase in calorie expenditure of 300 calories can be achieved by running for about 30 minutes, or relatively intense walking for 70 minutes, or relaxed walking, such as a walk in the park for about an hour and a half.

We therefore note that reducing energy intake through diet and exercise can be used separately, or combined, depending on the individual's abilities and preferences.

In addition, the composition of the diet may affect triglyceride levels in the blood. Specifically, a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as oily fish (e.g. salmon, mackerel, sardines), walnuts, vegetable margarines replacing saturated fats (from red meat, sausages, salami, mayonnaise and sweets) from monounsaturated fats (olive oil, unsalted nuts), as well as a decrease in intake, mainly simple carbohydrates such as pasta, rice, white bread and soft drinks, reduces the concentration of triglycerides in the blood , preferring complex ones such as wholegrain pasta, paddy rice and multigrain bread.

What to Keep what?

Do we ultimately reduce the amount of our food a little and increase our physical activity, to solve the problem of hyper- triglycerides instead of paying for expensive medications?

The answer is a clear YES!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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