Read our popular Blood Fats Explained leaflet.
Triglycerides are a form of dietary fat found in meats, dairy produce and cooking oils. The liver also makes triglycerides.
Whether they come from the digestion of foods or from the liver, triglycerides are used for one of two purposes. They may be taken up by cells and tissues and used for energy. Alternatively they may be stored as fat.
After eating a meal the blood is rich in triglycerides. It usually takes a few hours for triglyceride levels to return to normal.
Some people have more difficulty in clearing triglycerides from the blood following a fatty meal.
- For a very small number of people this is because of a rare genetic condition called Lipoprotein Lipase Deficiency (LPLD)
- About 1 in 100 people have a condition called Familial Combined Hyperlipidaemia (FCH) where both cholesterol and triglyceride levels are raised
- about 1 in 5000 people have a condition called Type 3 Hyperlipidaemia where both cholesterol and triglycerides are raised
- Having raised triglycerides might be a symptom of pre-diabetes or metabolic syndrome, so visit our section on Diabetes
Low HDL (good) cholesterol
Raised triglycerides often go hand in hand with low HDL levels. The higher the triglyceride level the lower the HDL level. Why is this? The explanation is complex, but put simply; as the main triglyceride carrying particles give up their
triglycerides they also transfer cholesterol to HDL. When triglycerides are cleared from the blood less quickly, less cholesterol is transferred to HDL particles meaning HDL cholesterol levels remain low. This is why it is important to have a full lipid profile (total cholesterol, triglycerides and HDL cholesterol), know and understand your numbers.