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What is the Connection Between Triglycerides and Alcohol?

Alcohol consumption can directly influence your triglyceride levels, often leading to an increase. This happens because the liver prioritizes breaking down alcohol over fat, causing a buildup of triglycerides in your bloodstream. Elevated levels can raise heart disease risk. Wondering how to balance a healthy lifestyle with the occasional drink? Keep reading to uncover the key to maintaining your heart health.
Jamey Jones, B.Sc.
Jamey Jones, B.Sc.

Triglycerides and alcohol are linked in that alcohol consumption can raise triglyceride levels in the blood. Even small amounts of alcohol can cause an increase in blood lipids, or fats, which is why doctors recommend limiting alcohol consumption for people with high triglyceride levels. Consuming 5 ounces (142 grams) or less of alcohol per day is the general recommendation for people with high triglycerides.

Alcohol raises blood triglyceride levels in two main ways. First, alcohol is in the form of fermented sugar, which the body converts to triglycerides if present in excess amounts. If the body is unable to use sugar for energy right away, the sugar is converted to fat and stored in fat cells for later use. People with high triglycerides are also advised to limit sugar intake, because it is converted into triglycerides in the same way as alcohol sugar.

Alcohol consumption can increase the blood's levels of triglycerides.
Alcohol consumption can increase the blood's levels of triglycerides.

Alcohol also raises blood triglyceride levels, because alcohol increases the liver’s production of fatty acids, or triglycerides, by inhibiting the liver enzyme that breaks down triglycerides. Inhibiting this enzyme means excess production of triglycerides will occur. The excess triglycerides are then released into the bloodstream.

When alcohol is present in the body, the liver works hard to eliminate it, but other liver functions are compromised in the process. It takes the liver one hour to break down and eliminate 1 ounce (28 grams) of alcohol. These two processes — alcohol sugar converting to triglycerides, and alcohol increasing liver’s production of triglycerides — illustrate the link between triglycerides and alcohol.

Drinking large amounts of alcohol can, over time, lead to liver disease.
Drinking large amounts of alcohol can, over time, lead to liver disease.

Triglycerides are the most common form of fat, both in food and in body fat. When a meal containing fat is consumed, any fat not immediately burned for energy is stored in the body’s fat cells in triglyceride form. High blood levels of triglycerides are a known health risk for atherosclerosis, a type of heart disease. This is why it is important to maintain healthy triglyceride levels. Knowing the relationship between triglycerides and alcohol — alcohol consumption can increase triglyceride levels — can help you make the right decisions when it comes to heart health.

Triglycerides can be found in blood vessels as well as in body fat.
Triglycerides can be found in blood vessels as well as in body fat.

Triglyceride levels are a health indicator that can be measured with a blood test, often a blood lipid panel that tests for other blood lipids in addition to triglycerides. Triglycerides and alcohol are a combination that can throw off the balance of healthy blood lipid levels, leading to health consequences that affect the heart. Alcohol consumption increases triglycerides and should be limited or avoided in people with unhealthy blood lipid levels.

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    • Alcohol consumption can increase the blood's levels of triglycerides.
      By: Sergey Nivens
      Alcohol consumption can increase the blood's levels of triglycerides.
    • Drinking large amounts of alcohol can, over time, lead to liver disease.
      By: olly
      Drinking large amounts of alcohol can, over time, lead to liver disease.
    • Triglycerides can be found in blood vessels as well as in body fat.
      By: Alexandr Mitiuc
      Triglycerides can be found in blood vessels as well as in body fat.
    • Triglycerides are typically measured as a part of a blood lipid profile.
      By: spflaum
      Triglycerides are typically measured as a part of a blood lipid profile.
    • High triglycerides are a known health risk for atherosclerosis, a type of heart disease.
      By: CLIPAREA.com
      High triglycerides are a known health risk for atherosclerosis, a type of heart disease.