What are Triglycerides?

With all of the news about cholesterol, it is no wonder that many people wonder just what are triglycerides. It is a good question because triglycerides and cholesterol are two different, yet related, things. Treating a problem with one does not necessarily correct a problem with the other.

Triglycerides are a kind of fat, or lipid, which is carried in your blood. The tri- , or three, of the word triglyceride comes from the fact that three molecules of fat make up the triglyceride: three molecules of fatty acid join with one glyceride molecule. The primary function of triglycerides is to provide energy to the body’s cells.

Triglycerides and Cholesterol

Floating through your blood along with triglycerides is the HDL and the LDL cholesterol. Together these are referred to as blood lipids or fats. In fact, when you have a lab test called a lipid profile done, the level of triglycerides, total cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol are measured.

While all of these blood fats are ‘lipids’ and all are tested in the lipid profile, each of these have a different function in the body. And not all are elevated at the same time. In fact, you can have a normal total cholesterol level, yet have a high triglyceride level. And the treatment of a high triglyceride level is different than the treatment of a high cholesterol level.

Where Do Triglycerides Come From?

Our triglycerides come from two sources:

  • Our food
  • Our body makes them

The triglycerides we get from food come from the carbohydrates and fat we eat.

The way our body produces triglycerides is this: for about 8 hours after you eat, your liver takes the triglycerides you ate from the blood stream, wraps them in protein packages and sends them off to the tissues that need it to function. When there are no dietary triglycerides available, your liver produces them.

The liver ‘wraps’ the triglycerides it makes in protein packages, called lipoproteins, and lets these circulate in the blood stream. As they circulate around, any cells that may need them for energy, take them in to be used. Any excess continue to float around or the extra is stored in the fat cells.

Actually, most of the excess is stored in your body’s fat. When your body needs more triglycerides, if there is none circulating in the blood stream, your body sends out hormones to release the triglycerides from the fat cells.

Unfortunately, if you live the average American lifestyle, your body doesn’t need to call too often for your fat cells to give up some triglycerides- you have plenty floating around in your blood all the time. In fact, too much- and this high triglyceride level is the problem!

Now that you have learned just what are triglycerides, continue on this website to learn about the damage they can do and how to score better on your next blood test.