Low Triglycerides: Causes, Symptoms, Dangers, and Treatment Options

Triglycerides are the major type of fat in our body. They move in the blood as very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL) and are also stored in the adipose tissue for the body’s energy requirement in between meals. The body converts any excess calories we do not immediately require into triglycerides.

Having high triglyceride levels in the body is undesirable because it increases your risk of heart disease and stroke.

But, at the same time, it is certainly not healthy to have low triglycerides. Though this condition is rare, you should not ignore it, when detected. Here is the interpretation of what low triglycerides really mean.

  • Low levels mean when fasting triglyceride levels drop below 50 mg/dl.
  • However, triglyceride levels below 35mg/dl are defined as very low and can be risky depending on the overall health condition of the person.
  • Triglyceride levels can go as low as below 10 mg/dL and are defined as extremely low values. The risk in such individuals is very high because such low levels could be a sign of a serious underlying problem.

Triglycerides should always be at optimum levels in order that they perform their functions in the best manner. These levels are defined as less than 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), or less than 1.7 millimoles per liter (mmol/L).

However, the American Heart Association revised the level parameters in the April of 2011 and described the optimal triglyceride levels as 100 mg/dl.

So, suppose your triglyceride fasting levels are 50 mg/dl and you have no problems or symptoms, you shouldn’t worry about it but, do have levels checked periodically. And, of course, consult your doctor.

There are many reasons that can cause your triglycerides to drop and a few complications that can develop as a result.

Triglycerides are a source of energy in your body and they provide energy to your body cells, tissues, and muscles. They even provide energy to your heart muscles and their low levels can have undesirable effects.

Symptoms of Low Triglycerides

Low triglycerides do not produce symptoms by themselves. It is the reasons that cause the triglyceride levels to fall and produce signs and symptoms. But, they are not specific and will not pinpoint this condition.

Again, it is the complications of low triglyceride levels that can produce symptoms and again, your doctor will not be able to pinpoint that you have low triglycerides.

Low triglyceride levels are usually detected after a person undergoes a blood test for triglycerides.

Usually, your doctor orders the blood test called the lipid profile or the lipid panel, which includes testing for total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL), high-density lipoprotein (HDL), very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL), and triglycerides.

Once low triglyceride levels are detected, your doctor will proceed to diagnose the cause and treat it.

Causes of low triglyceride levels

Malnutrition

According to the medical directory, malnutrition is the condition that develops when the body does not get the adequate amount of nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates and fats to maintain healthy tissue and organ function. This is referred to as undernourishment.

Some causes of malnutrition include cancer, memory loss, depression, inability to eat, and extreme poverty.

Some of the symptoms include lethargy, dry skin, loss of skin elasticity, brittle and sparse hair, muscle wasting, diarrhea and loss of weight.

Diet very low in fats

People wanting to reduce weight over-enthusiastically choose a diet that is virtually rid of any fats. They could be models wanting to fit into a size zero dress or anybody else for whatever the reason

A very poor fat intake can lower your triglyceride levels to pathological levels.

Malabsorption syndrome

Though the diet may be nutritious, there is a poor absorption of the nutrients, including fats in the digestive tract. This is due to the alteration in the ability of the intestine to absorb nutrients into the bloodstream.

Causes of malabsorption syndrome include celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, lactose intolerance, protein intolerance, cancer, radiation therapy, bariatric surgery, chronic liver disease, chronic pancreatitis, and intestinal damage.

Symptoms include poor growth in children, weight loss, and muscle wasting. Gastrointestinal tract symptoms include bloating, diarrhea, bulky, greasy stools and abdominal muscle cramping.

Hyperthyroidism and low triglycerides

The thyroid gland produces the hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), which regulate body metabolism, promote the synthesis of proteins, and increase the consumption of oxygen in your body.
In hyperthyroidism, due to the overactive thyroid gland, there is excessive production of the T3 and T4 hormones and consequently, the metabolism rate is high.

An elevated metabolism rate requires more energy, which is burnt at a much faster rate than the normal. Since triglycerides are responsible for providing energy, more of them are utilized leading to a fall in their levels.

Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include a rapid heartbeat, sudden loss of weight, excessive sweating, anxiety, an increased appetite, a feeling of being tired, tremors, irritability and difficulty in falling asleep.

Certain drugs cause low triglycerides

Certain drugs can deplete the fat stores and have a direct triglyceride-lowering effect. They include:

  • Fish oil has a triglyceride lowering effect and when combined with low-carbohydrate diet becomes a potential mix that can lower your triglycerides more than desired.
  • Statins
  • Nicotinic acid
  • Ascorbic acid
  • Clofibrate
  • Asparaginase
  • Gemfibrozil

Low triglycerides dangers

Just as high triglycerides have dangers, low triglycerides have adverse effects on the body and result in unwanted health complications.

Low triglyceride levels can increase your risk of cardiac problems and stroke. Therefore, levels that are very low are as dangerous as extremely high triglycerides and should be taken seriously and addressed promptly.

Low triglyceride levels will result in poor absorption of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K resulting in poor nutrition.

As triglycerides are responsible for extra energy when required low triglycerides will cause insufficient calories and a poor energy output.

If you are diabetic (more specifically type 1) and your low triglyceride levels are due to hyperthyroidism, then you may be headed for a poor control of your diabetes.

An increased metabolism rate clears most things including insulin from the system at a faster rate, and due to an increased production and absorption of glucose, your blood sugar can rise. This can lead to insulin resistance where the cells do not utilize the blood glucose leading to a rise in blood sugar levels. Therefore, in spite of low triglycerides, your blood glucose can be high.

Again, low trigs are associated with low energy levels. This can have an adverse effect on your family life and the work place reducing your efficiency.

Treatment of low triglycerides

Once the cause of low triglycerides has been identified, treatment will aim to raise the levels. It primarily involves treatment of the underlying cause.

For example, a wrong diet which is very low in fats must be corrected and balanced out.  The diet plan for low triglycerides should consist of simply adding some more fats, carbohydrates and calories to your daily diet.

Similarly, hyperthyroidism needs to be treated with medicines or if any of the above mentioned medicines being taken for some ailments has caused the triglycerides to fall, then these medicines need to be changed.

 

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