Biomedical Engineering Blog

Biomedical Engineering

The Biomedical Engineering blog is the place for conversation and discussion about topics related to engineering principles of the medical field. Here, you'll find everything from discussions about emerging medical technologies to advances in medical research. The blog's owner, Chelsey H, is a graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) with a degree in Biomedical Engineering.

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Cholesterol and Triglycerides

Posted February 17, 2009 12:05 AM by Bone Crusher

Elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels contribute to hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) and subsequent heart attacks. Cholesterol is like a wax. Triglyceride is essentially fat (or a fatty acid esterified glycerol, like most animal fats and vegetable oil we eat).

My father in-law always had low cholesterol, but his high triglyceride levels caused his heart attack. Twenty years ago, doctors did not look at triglyceride levels as much as they do now. If you are obese or overweight, then weight loss is the first step toward reducing your triglyceride levels.

Reducing total fat, sugars, and simple carbohydrates in your diet will help reduce your weight because these constituents result in foods with higher calorie or energy content levels. A vegan or vegetarian diet should help this. Reducing your intake of sugars, alcohol (beer L), and simple carbohydrates will also help, since these items raise triglyceride levels.

I have seriously considered reducing beer consumption, after reading statements like "Reduce your intake of alcohol considerably. Even small amounts of alcohol can lead to large changes in plasma triglyceride levels, on the American Heart Association's website. (See Reducing Triglyceride Levels for more details.)

There are no mainstream drugs on the market to control or reduce triglyceride levels. Consuming niacin, cinnamon, omega-3, and chromium might help reduce your triglyceride levels. The American Heart Association outlines what are acceptable levels of triglycerides and the steps to control your levels.

Low Saturated Fat Levels

Except for the tropical oils (coconut and palm), vegetable oils are 3 to 5 times lower in saturated fat. Reducing saturated fat will help to reduce your cholesterol levels. Lower saturated fat also improves platelet composition and function. Platelets are involved when you actually have a heart attack. They effect clotting and the development of the arterial thrombi that underlie most "heart attacks" due to acute myocardial infarctions.

High Omega-3 Content

Plant-based diets can also have high levels of omega-3 if the diet includes flax seeds, flax seed oil, walnuts, pecans, kiwi fruit, lingonberry, black raspberry and certain algae (such as kelp and seaweed). As we have learned in other posts on CR4, omega-3 lowers bad LDL cholesterol and triglycerides while raising good HDL cholesterol.

High Fiber Content

Meat has no fiber content whatsoever. Oatmeal is known to reduce total cholesterol levels without adverse effects on HDL or triglyceride levels (see ). Other whole-grain cereals that are high in fiber (like Uncle Sam's, which is also high in omega-3), probably provide similar benefits. Fiber helps fill you up, so you are less hungry later on and eat less. Fiber also has beneficial effects for your digestive system.

What are Phytosterols?

Phytosterols block the absorption of cholesterol into the system – possibly in the intestinal tract. Some margarine and aspirin products have added phytosterols, but high levels can be found in certain foods.

My cardiologist told me to consume phytosterols. Here is a list of foods rich in phytosterols . Oils in rice bran have the highest phytosterol levels on this list followed by oils in corn, wheat germ and then flax seed. Take a look at The Plant Sterols Story for more details.

Editor's Note: This is Part 3 in a multi-part series. Part 1 and Part 2 are already on-line.


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Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: Quebec
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Re: Cholesterol and Triglycerides

02/18/2009 7:14 PM

Bone Crusher, you would have to be a Bone Head to even consider drinking beer if you have high triglycerides. Most people don't worry about triglycerides because we hear so much about cholesterol. Alcohol is definitely a contributing factor, and I personally know of two beer drinkers who had major hear attacks due to high triglycerides. One survived, the other did not. My own tirglycerides dropped considerably after I gave up beer and wine.

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