To understand low triglycerides, it’s important to understand what triglycerides are in general. Triglycerides are a type of fat converted from any excess calories we do not immediately use.
Mainly derived from fat and carbohydrates we eat, triglyceride stocks are used for energy in-between the meals, but when we take in more than we burn, that’s when the problem arises.
Although cholesterol and fat are essential for the body, keeping your levels within the norm is imperative, as high levels increase the risk of serious health issues, especially cardiovascular ailments.
There are numerous reasons for a person to have low triglycerides, which we will explain further down. In order to determine your triglyceride levels, your doctor needs to perform a lipid panel test. If results show a low level of triglycerides but you do not experience any symptoms, no further investigation is usually required as your low levels are not affecting your health. But if you do present symptoms, your doctor will run further testing to determine the underlying cause.
Is my triglyceride low?
Triglyceride levels are something your doctor will find out through fasting blood tests. They can give you more information on what your specific numbers are and what they mean in terms of your own personal health. The following are the various ranges of triglyceride levels.
- Normal: Less than 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), or less than 1.7 millimoles per liter (mmol/L)
- Borderline high: 150 to 199 mg/dL (1.8 to 2.2 mmol/L)
- High: 200 to 499 mg/dL (2.3 to 5.6 mmol/L)
- Very high: 500 mg/dL or above (5.7 mmol/L or above)
Causes of low triglycerides
Hyperthyroidism refers to an overactive thyroid. The thyroid gland overproduces hormones, leading to sudden weight loss, increase in appetite, sweating, menstrual changes, fatigue, and sleep problems, among other symptoms. A blood test can determine the level of hormones in your blood which could signify a thyroid problem.
Disorders that contribute to improper absorption of nutrients can lead to malnutrition. Chronic malnutrition can deplete your body of fat, thus contributing to low triglycerides. Some causes of malnutrition include cancer, memory loss, depression, inability to eat, and trauma, to name a few.
Certain medications and drugs can deplete fat, leading to low triglycerides. These drugs include nicotinic acid, statins, asparaginase, fenofibrate, gemifibrozil, and clofibrate.
Although a high-fat diet can increase triglyceride levels, a low-fat diet can keep them low. As mentioned, fat is essential for the human body to function, but eating the right amount of fat is key – not too much and not too little.
In malabsorption syndrome, the body has a problem properly absorbing nutrients from ingested food. If fat cannot be absorbed, then triglyceride levels can become low.
Low triglycerides may be serious
A finding of low triglycerides can be associated with its own range of adverse effects resulting in various health complications. Recent studies have found that low triglyceride levels combined with old age and a high class of NYHA heart failure can increase the likelihood of a cardiac problem and even stroke. This emphasizes that importance of having an overall balance within the body, as high triglycerides have been known for leading the development of fatal cardiac and stroke issues as well.
Low levels of triglycerides also impact other processes in the body such as the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. These vitamins are involved in everything from the recycling of calcium to the production of beneficial blood clots.
Insulin resistance, a hallmark of type 2 diabetes, can be a consequence of having low triglyceride levels. This occurs when an increased metabolic rate can clear insulin from your system, along with triglycerides, at a faster rate. This can cause the glucose in the system to stick around longer going underutilized and pronging exposure to cells increasing their resistance to insulin.
Symptoms of low triglycerides
Both high and low triglyceride levels don’t necessarily produce direct symptoms, so you won’t necessarily feel any different as a result of high or low triglyceride levels.
Symptoms of low triglycerides are often associated with the underlying cause. For example, you will experience symptoms of hyperthyroidism, malnutrition, or malabsorption syndrome.
There are no direct symptoms associated with having triglyceride levels that are too low or too high, however, based on the cause of these varied levels, you may experience a variety of symptoms. Low triglycerides due to malnutrition can cause symptoms like lethargy, feeling cold, dry skin, brittle or sparse hair, muscle wasting, diarrhea, and weight loss. Low triglycerides caused by hyperthyroidism can be accompanied by a rapid heart rate, weight loss, anxiety, sweating, increased appetite, fatigue, tremors, and difficulty sleeping. Finally, low triglycerides resulting from malabsorption may be accompanied by symptoms such as poor growth, weight loss, and muscle wasting.
If you do experience symptoms related to these conditions, go see your doctor who can take a look at your blood work, review your symptoms, and detect a cause, so you can begin treatment.