What is the function of Triglycerides?
February 1, 2019
What Is the Function of Triglycerides?
Triglycerides are lipids, a type of fat. They are found in foods that come from both plants and animals. The triglycerides in plants come from vegetable oils, such as sunflower and peanut, which remain liquid at room temperature. Meat and dairy products contain triglycerides in animal fats, which remain solid at room temperature. Triglycerides are necessary for certain bodily functions, but high levels of them can lead to health problems.
Triglycerides are the most common lipid found in the body. They contain three chains of fatty acids. Although similar in structure to the phospholipids that build cell membranes, triglycerides are completely hydrophobic, meaning they cannot mix with water, so they cannot integrate into membranes. Because they can't mix with water, triglycerides bind to specialized proteins called lipoproteins to enable them to travel through the blood.
Triglycerides provide your body with energy, but their main function is to store energy for later use. The food you eat contains calories in the form of carbohydrates, protein and fat. When you consume more calories than your body can use, it stores those calories in the form of triglycerides. Fat cells hold the triglyceride molecules until your body needs energy, such as between meals. Hormones signal the fat cells to release the triglycerides for your body to use.
Triglycerides serve a necessary function -- without them your body would run out of energy unless you were eating constantly. The American Heart Association warns that an elevated triglyceride level, a condition known as hypertriglyceridemia, is associated with coronary artery disease. You can monitor your triglyceride and your cholesterol levels by asking your doctor to order a lipid panel profile, which requires you to provide blood samples. The test results indicate the levels of triglycerides, total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol.
Doctors recommend a triglyceride level of 150 milligrams per deciliter or less to reduce your risk of heart disease. A level of 200 to 499 milligrams per deciliter is considered high, and a level above 500 milligrams per deciliter is very high. If your triglyceride level is in the high or very high range, you should make lifestyle changes to reduce those numbers.
The best way to reduce your triglyceride level is to decrease the number of calories you consume each day, especially if you are overweight. In addition to cutting calories, reduce your intake of saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol, and eat more fruits and vegetables. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation, because even small amounts can cause significant changes in your blood triglyceride level. Getting regular moderate-intensity exercise, at least 30 minutes five days a week, can also help lower your triglycerides.