High levels of triglycerides in the blood have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and other problems. Here’s just a sampling of some research findings from the past several years:
- A study published in early 2017 in Diabetes Care, of 3,216 Native Americans followed for about 18 years, found that those with high triglycerides and low HDL cholesterol had a significantly (about one-third) higher risk for coronary heart disease than those with normal triglyceride and HDL levels. The risk of heart disease and stroke was even higher in people with diabetes.
- Triglyceride levels may be an independent risk factor for all-cause mortality, at least in people with established coronary artery disease, according to a 2016 study from Israel in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, which followed more than 15,000 patients for 22 years. The higher the triglycerides, the lower the survival rate, even among those with levels 100 to 149, but especially in those with levels above 500. As the accompanying editorial noted, since the study was conducted at a time before statins were widely used, it’s not clear if the findings would be the same if it were done today.
- Elevated triglyceride levels (150 and above) were associated with a 35 percent increased risk of prostate cancer recurrence among 843 men treated for the disease, in a study published in 2014 in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. This was seen after the researchers controlled for age, race, body weight, pre-operative PSA, and other variables that can affect outcomes. No associations were seen for total, HDL, or LDL cholesterol.
- In a 2012 study in the journal Stroke—which looked at data from more than 1,500 postmenopausal women in the Women’s Health Initiative—those with the highest triglyceride levels at baseline were more likely to have an ischemic stroke (the type that occurs when a blood vessel becomes blocked) than those with the lowest levels.
- Bacterial populations in the gut (gut microbiome) may influence triglyceride levels, a 2015 study in Circulation Research suggests. According to the Dutch researchers, the array of bacteria accounted for 6 percent of the variation in triglyceride levels seen among the 893 participants. Research into the microbiome is too preliminary, however, to come to any firm conclusions about the practical meaning of the results.
Published April 21, 2017