Elevated triglyceride levels are a potent risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and a commonly encountered problem in industrialized nations like the United States. Increases in triglycerides have been linked to heart disease and stroke, even in the absence of high cholesterol levels, and they are an important consideration in the diagnosis of Metabolic syndrome. Thankfully, there are many good ways to reduce triglyceride levels, such as fish oil supplementation, carbohydrate reduction, and weight-loss. And now, according to a new advance publication in the Journal of Atherosclerosis and Thrombosis, tocotrienols — which are members of the vitamin E family — may also become highly effective new weapons for bringing down these dangerous blood fats (1).
A New Way to Lower Triglycerides
In this new double-blind, placebo-controlled study, subjects were given 120 mg/day of a combination of delta and gamma tocotrienols over a period of two months. They were monitored for changes in serum cholesterol, triglycerides, HDL, LDL, and lipoprotein particle subfractions, as well as weight, body fat mass, body fat percentage, and waist circumference.
The results turned out to be very promising. While there was a negligible impact on cholesterol or lipoprotein levels, there was a significant 28% drop in triglyceride levels in the treatment group (2). This is similar (and in some cases better) than the reductions seen with the EPA fraction of fish oil (3).
As an added bonus, those taking the tocotrienols had decreases in body fat mass, body fat percentage, and waist circumference. Those in the placebo group showed an increasing trend in all of these areas.
Other Ways to Lower Triglycerides
Triglycerides are made up of three fatty acids attached to a “backbone” of glycerol, and it is in this form that fat normally occurs in the body. These fats are made in the liver, and because fat is not soluble in the blood, it is packaged into proteins like VLDL (very low-density lipoproteins) to be released for transport into the bloodstream. One of the reasons why triglycerides are so dangerous has to do with how they interact with other lipoprotein particles in the bloodstream. When VLDL (which carry triglycerides) bump into LDL and/or HDL particles, the LDL and HDL take on the VLDL’s load of triglycerides. As the LDL and HDL become stuffed with triglycerides, it signals enzymes in the blood and liver to convert the lipoproteins into smaller particles. Small HDL and (especially) small LDL carry a much higher risk of cardiovascular disease than their larger, fluffier versions (4).
High triglycerides can occur for several reasons. Most of the time it is due to insulin resistance, being overweight, and/or eating too many carbohydrates. When carbohydrates are eaten in excess, they are converted, via a metabolic pathway called de novo lipogenesis, into triglycerides and then subsequently packaged into VLDL particles. The most sensible and straightforward approach, then, in reducing triglycerides is to reduce carbohydrate consumption. Indeed, this approach has proven to be quite powerful, and it can reduce triglycerides dramatically (5). Combined with the weight-loss that usually follows from carbohydrate restriction, the reduction in triglycerides could likely be even greater over time.
Fish oil is considered by many to be the gold standard treatment for reducing triglycerides. Fish oil helps to convert fatty acids into energy, speeds up VLDL clearance from the bloodstream, and also decreases VLDL production in the liver. Fish oil is especially effective when used in combination with a low-carbohydrate diet (6).
Taking control of high triglycerides isn’t difficult. Simple dietary modifications along with some targeted supplementation could easily make all the difference.