“I take 3,000 mg of your Omega-3 and I’m eating a healthier diet…but my Triglycerides are up! What the heck?!”
I get this question quite often.
On the surface it makes no sense.
Image: Hannah Chapman
As a general rule, every 3000 mg of Omega-3 combined with a healthy diet and daily exercise may be used to maintain healthy triglycerides.*
If you follow the above guideline, you should notice an improvement.
Yet, your doctor’s office calls with news that your triglycerides have actually gone up. You may have even gained a couple of pounds.
Frustration is a normal and acceptable response to this development.
I understand. The same thing has happened to me.
Here’s the good news: it has nothing to do with the Omega-3. You’re not immune to the benefits of Omega-3.
Omega-3 has influence on everyone’s bodies. You’re not an exception.
Forget the fish oil. It’s not the problem.
The problem is that ‘healthier’ diet you’re on.
When people decide to take charge of their health, they usually do these four things:
- cut out fatty foods
- exercise more
- eat more fruits and vegetables
- increase whole grain consumption
Three of the four changes above can increase triglycerides.
Let’s look at cutting out fats from the diet.
Before: Whole milk. After: skim milk
Before: regular ice cream. After: fat-free yogurt
Before: bacon. After: dry toast
Before: scrambled eggs. After: oatmeal
Before: coffee with cream. After: orange juice.
In every one of these scenarios, people are doing what they’re told. They are following the healthy-eating guidelines we’ve subconsciously picked up from years of reading and watching pundits on TV. May be you’ve been watching Dr. Oz.
You’re doing what you were told.
If you want to lose weight or be healthy, you’re supposed to worship at the Altar of Fat-Free.
But what have you really done? Let’s look at each of the Before & After scenarios.
Before & After: The ‘After’ is rarely better!
Milk. Most of the calories of regular whole milk comes from its fat. Only 30% comes from sugar. But almost 60% of the calories of skim milk comes from its lactose, milk sugar.
Result: more calories from sugar and carbohydrates.
What do these changes do to your Triglycerides?
In each of these ‘healthy’ changes, there is a big jump in carbohydrate and sugar calories.
It doesn’t matter if your toast or oatmeal is considered ‘whole grain.’ (I call whole grains the ‘filtered-cigarettes of nutrition.’ Yes, they are better than refined grains. They are lesser-evil foods, cleverly exploited by food marketers.)
What matters is that carbohydrates are starches and your body ultimately uses enzymes to break it down to sugar.
Your body has a very limited capacity to store sugar. But it can store virtually unlimited amounts of fat.
When your body gets a wallop of carbs, a series of things happen…
First, blood sugar rises.
Second is an insulin spike.
Insulin takes the sugar and packs it away as much as possible in various cells in your body. But like I said, only in very limited amounts. Cells reach their sugar storage capacity quickly.
So then what?
Well, off to the liver, the sugars go. In the liver, sugars are converted into fats.
It does not matter if you ate whiter-than-white Wonder Bread or if you ate organic, stone-ground, 7-grain whole bread from a health food store that looks and tastes like the oak tree outside my window.
They all end up getting sent to the Principal’s office – the liver. And a nifty process called de novo lipogensis occurs.
This is fat production. Mostly the saturated kind.
Triglycerides are fats.
And…ta-daa…that is why your triglycerides went up after you started on your ‘healthy’ diet.
It’s not your fault. At least it WASN’T your fault. You were only doing what you thought was best.
So why is everyone telling you to eat more ‘healthy’ whole grains?
Most doctors, dietitians, The Dr. Oz Show, experts on ‘The Biggest Loser,’ all tell you to eat a low-fat diet high in whole grains.
Hmm. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?
The answer is that these organizations are extremely conservative. They are clinging to unproven dogma that was believed to be correct back in the 1980s, when they told us to cut out fat and eat more whole grains. And we listened.
For heaven’s sake, the FDA, the nation’s ultimate health authority, still repeats the same tired diet advice.
Excess carbs + Bad genes = Insulin Resistance
We’ll talk about insulin resistance in another blog. But insulin resistance is a huge problem and is associated with high triglycerides, low HDL, high LDL particles, and the list goes on.
The science I just explained above is not new. It’s old stuff. You don’t have go digging in obscure medical journals. It’s right there for you to see in most nutrition and medical text books.
Nothing I’ve stated above is mysterious or controversial.
A diet high in carbs will increase your triglyceride levels. Period.
That’s not my opinion. It’s a fact.
Want to reduce your triglycerides?
- Ditch your donut.
- Cut out fruit juices.
- Cut out cereal.
- Cut out pasta.
Go back to eating eggs. Go back to eating seafoods, grass-fed meats, nuts and most of all, go back to eating lots of green leafy vegetables. Eat healthy fats like Omega-3. Eat more healthy oils like olive oil, occasional dollop or coconut oil and yes, (gasp!) even pastured butter.*
It’s OK to be shocked.
I followed my own advice and dropped my triglycerides from about 800 to about 100 using mostly diet and exercise.*
This is why your efforts were undone by bowls of ‘healthy’ cereal, low-fat meals and fruits in the morning.
Let’s be honest – when someone says ‘eat more fruits and vegetables,’ we hear ‘eat more fruits.’ And we do. A banana and orange juice for breakfast is a wallop of sugar too. Just sayin.’
Think twice if you see the words ‘Healthy Whole Grains’ on a box of breakfast cereal.
Just because it looks and tastes like tree bark doesn’t make it good for you!
It’s time to get over fat-phobia and go back to traditional foods like eggs, meats, vegetables and nuts.
*Individual results may vary. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Clinical research suggests the omega-3 dosage needed to help maintain healthy triglycerides is 2000-3000 mg per day when used as part of healthy diet and exercise.