Does too much sugar spike your triglycerides?

Does too much sugar spike your triglycerides?

You’ve just been told you have high triglycerides – now what?  Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood that account for 95% of the fat found within the human body and is the same type of fat found within the majority of food we eat.   When you eat food containing more calories than you need, your body will convert those extra calories into triglycerides which are stored in your fat cells.  Anyone diagnosed with high triglycerides needs to take action to lower their levels in order to improve heart health.  


Fortunately, there are several lifestyle modifications one can take to reduce their levels of triglycerides. One of the most effective and natural methods for lowering triglycerides is to reduce your intake of sugar.  Sugary foods can increase triglycerides in the blood so it is wise to keep your intake of them to as little as possible.

When a person has high levels of triglycerides, it puts them at an increased risk of developing coronary artery disease, diabetes, and fatty liver.  The American Heart Association states that if a young person has high triglyceride levels they have a four times greater risk of developing heart disease or having a stroke than someone with normal triglycerides levels. 

Food choices play a major role in the amount of triglycerides found in your blood and cutting back on sugar is one way to help keep triglycerides in check.

How does sugar affect triglycerides?

Overconsuming sugar will only provide a person with extra calories they don’t need. Your body will take those extra calories and convert them into triglycerides which are stored as fat.  The only problem is these extra stored triglycerides can end up in your arteries where they buildup into what is called plaque.  Plaque can harden the artery walls inhibiting blood flow which can eventually lead to a serious complication such as a heart attack or stroke.

Normal triglyceride levels are defined as less than 150 mg/dl, 150-199 is considered borderline high, 200-499 is high, and 500 or higher is called very high.  Elevated levels of triglycerides make the blood sticky and thick which can lead to the right conditions to form clots.  Both men and women who have high triglycerides are at risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Sugar recommendation

Everyone should limit their intake of sugar but particularly so for anyone with high triglycerides.  According to the American Heart Association, sugar should be limited to fewer than 100 calories per day (25 grams or 6 teaspoons) for women and 150 calories (37 grams or 9 teaspoons) for men.  Four grams of sugar is equivalent to one teaspoon.

Here are some ways to reduce your intake of sugar throughout each day:

·      Avoid foods concentrated in sugar such as soft drinks, candy, dried fruit, cake, cookies, pastries and energy drinks. 

·      Reduce the intake of refined carbohydrates.  Refined carbohydrates include white rice, white bread or enriched flour products such as rolls, cereal, buns, and cracker, and regular pasta.  These types of food can raise blood sugar and insulin levels more than fiber-rich whole grains.  Having higher insulin levels can lead to a higher rise in triglycerides after a meal. 

·      Choose more whole grains such as 100% whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, brown or wild rice, and whole grain cereals, crackers, oatmeal, quinoa, barley, and bulger.

·      Drink no more than 16 ounces of sugar-sweetened beverage per week which includes soft drinks, sweetened tea, lemonade, fruit drinks, sports drinks, and sugary coffee drinks.  Ideally avoid these beverages.   

Another substance to avoid is the sugar fructose.  Fructose is found in table sugar, honey, and high fructose corn syrup.  When we eat too many foods containing fructose it enhances fat production in the liver and leads to large increases in blood triglycerides.

Fructose is also the natural sugar found in fruits and is associated with raising triglyceride levels.  The point is to not cut out fruit completely, but to limit fructose intake to no more than 100 grams a day. For example, a 1.5 ounce box of raisins contains about 13 grams of fructose, a large banana contains about 7 grams and a large apple with the skin contains about 13 grams.  To know how much fructose is in various foods, visit

Other lifestyle methods to use to lower triglycerides besides reducing sugar intake include the following: 

·      Consume more foods containing omega-3 fatty acids

·      Reduce alcohol intake

·      Quit smoking

·      Increase physical activity