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Triglycerides are a type of fat found in your blood.
Triglycerides are different from cholesterol (another type of fat), and they play a different role.
While cholesterol is used to build cells, triglycerides store unused calories and give your body energy during the day, when you’re not eating.
Triglycerides contribute up to 95 percent of dietary fats, which are the main energy source of the brain.
And that’s a good thing because no part of you needs that stored fat more than your brain.
You see, your entire body needs fat to function, but your brain actually craves it. This is because your brain is 60 percent fat, and the quality of the fats you eat determines how well your brain’s cell membranes work.
Maybe this fact has something to do with some recent research findings pointing to a connection between higher triglyceride levels and lower risk of dementia…
Triglycerides and predicting dementia risk
According to research published in Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, older people who have higher levels of triglycerides may have a lower risk of dementia and a slower cognitive decline over time compared to people who have lower levels.
That is probably surprising to hear, especially if you’ve spent most of your adult life with doctors dogging you to get your total cholesterol numbers lower.
However, triglycerides are not as important for heart disease risk on their own. It depends on if they are very high and other factors.
In fact, if yours measures at what’s considered normal or even borderline high, it may benefit your brain…
A simple blood test can show you where your triglycerides fall:
- 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)
In the recently published study, the health data of 18,294 participants with an average age of 75 and no prior diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s, was used to place them into groups based on their triglyceride levels. The lowest triglyceride group had levels of less than 62mg/dL.
They were all followed for about six years and findings revealed that:
- Compared to the lowest group, the second group (with levels of 63 to 106 mg/dL) was 15 percent less likely to develop dementia.
- The third group (those with levels between 107 and 186 mg/dL) was 24 percent less likely to develop dementia than the lowest group.
- In the fourth group (those with triglyceride levels of 187mg/dL or higher) the threat of dementia was 36 percent less likely than the lowest group.
According to study author Zhen Zhou, PhD, of Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, “Our findings suggest that triglyceride levels may serve as a useful predictor for dementia risk and cognitive decline in older populations.”
Triglycerides for a healthy brain and heart
Of course, keeping triglyceride levels out of the “high” or “very high” category is important to avoid the risk of heart problems, metabolic syndrome and stroke.
But if your heart health and the threat of dementia are concerns, you may want to optimize them.
Dr. Elizabeth Klodas provides great advice on lowering triglycerides and understanding when that’s necessary.
But what if you’re someone whose levels are super low? That likely warrants a conversation with a doctor too.
That’s because some research suggests that low triglyceride levels might be a marker of autoimmune disease, an overactive immune system or high levels of inflammation — or genes.
In a study of 595 healthy Taiwanese people, those with the APOE gene variant associated with Alzheimer’s had significantly lower blood triglycerides.
All of this confirms that we should strive to keep our triglycerides in the sweet spot.
Editor’s note: While you’re doing all the right things to protect your brain as you age, make sure you don’t make the mistake 38 million Americans do every day — by taking a drug that robs them of an essential brain nutrient! Click here to discover the truth about the Cholesterol Super-Brain!
Higher levels of triglycerides linked to lower risk of dementia — Science Daily
Should You Be Worried If Your Triglycerides Are Low? — Healthline
Triglycerides: Why do they matter? — Mayo Clinic