Triglycerides and Alcohol Consumption Study

Triglycerides and Alcohol Consumption

The relationship between triglycerides and alcohol is a strange one. Studies have shown both positive and negative effects on triglycerides levels from some alcohol consumption. In fact, there is a rather fine line between alcohol being a help or a hindrance on the levels of these necessary blood fats within the body. It is important to understand this relationship, particularly if trying to adhere to a diet to lower triglycerides.

Triglycerides are fats found in the blood and they are a result of the breakdown of the foods we eat. They are necessary to many bodily functions, but having too much of them can have detrimental effects on the body in the long term, and an increased risk of heart disease and stroke have been associated with having high triglycerides. The acceptable triglycerides range is anything under 150 mg/dL and above that, the range for individuals with slightly elevated levels is between 151-200 mg/ dL. Anything results going over this acceptable triglycerides range many result in some doctor recommended changes to lifestyle. It most often will result in an increase in physical activity as well as a triglycerides diet that limits the amount of fat and refined carbohydrates and sugar being taken into the body. In most cases, this also includes abstinence from alcoholic beverages, due to the relationship between triglycerides and alcohol.

There are many reasons why dietary changes are necessary to controlling triglyceride levels. Reduced intake of fats and sugars can greatly reduce the levels of triglycerides in the blood. Since alcohol is both high in sugar and calories, it is often encouraged that it be eliminated from the diet, considering the relationship between triglycerides and sugar intake. But, alcohol plays another interesting role in the increase of levels of these blood fats. When alcohol is consumed alongside a fatty meal, the levels of triglycerides in the blood can raise dramatically. This is especially true when the meal consumed with the alcohol is high in saturated fat. Because alcohol decreases lipoprotein lipase activity, it can cause a peak in triglycerides. In addition, another negative effect can be seen between triglycerides and alcohol during a fatty meal. Alcohol can increase the production of VLDL particles within the liver, and the increase in the particles can lead to hypertriglyceridemia (elevated triglycerides).

Conversely however, one particular type of alcohol may be useful in reducing high triglycerides, and that is red wine. While it still contains the sugar and calories that are considered problematic for individuals with high triglyceride levels, it also contains an incredible amount of antioxidants as well. Why red wine? Well, in terms of antioxidant content, it beats out white wine tenfold. Resveratrol, possibly the most beneficial of these important antioxidants, is found in red grapes and has been associated with numerous positive effects on the body including a lower risk of heart disease. So, in this case alone, it is possible that triglycerides and alcohol may not be such serious enemies. However, resveratrol alone is not a green light for sufferers of high triglycerides to drink pinot noir in excess. The antioxidant benefits of red wine are more than attainable from one small glass (four to five ounces) and anything more than this can lead to negative effects.

It is important to understand that in terms of dietary considerations for managing higher than desired triglycerides that everyone is different. Some people achieve great success with lifestyle changes, while others eventually end up on triglycerides medications such as fibrates or statins in order to control and reduce the levels of these fats in the blood. It is always incredibly important that alcohol use be discussed with a health care provider before determining that minimal alcohol use is acceptable. But, this is even truer in individuals who are taking triglycerides medications. Alcohol can have an adverse effect on the way these medications work within the body. So, while elevated triglycerides and alcohol use (if minimal) may be acceptable in some users, this is likely not the case in people who are on medications used to lower triglyceride levels.

Studies have shown time and time again that alcohol can very quickly and very negatively impact triglyceride levels due to high calorie and sugar content. And anyone with high triglycerides will be advised to discontinue alcohol use. However, it may be worthwhile to discuss minimal use of red wine only with a health care provider. There are many benefits to be had from red wine thanks to its contained antioxidants that can result in increased heart health. However, the fine line between elevated triglycerides and alcohol use mean that if any use of red wine is acceptable, it is very minimal in nature. Too high levels can completely rule out even occasional consumption of red wine. This is why it is very important to discuss any and all alcohol use with a health care provider in order to weigh both the potential benefits as well as the risks involved with doing so.