What is a desirable triglyceride level?

Though well-intended, the National Cholesterol Education Panel's Adult Treatment Panel, or ATP-III, (whew!) guidelines for cholesterol have been responsible for loads of misinformation.

The intention was to educate the internist or family doctor who treats sore throats, performs Pap smears, administers pneumovax vaccine, treats arthritic knees---and dabbles in heart disease prevention. The ATP-III guidelines are the "Cholesterol for Dummies" approach.

What standard guidelines definitely do not represent are the ideal values to achieve. They do not ensure protection from heart disease. This is particularly true of the ATP-III advice to keep triglycerides at or below the "desirable" level of 150 mg/dl.

In the Track Your Plaque program, we ask "What is necessary to tip the odds in favor of coronary plaque regresion or reduction of heart scan score?" This is not achieved with a triglyceride of 150. In fact, triglycerides at this level are associated with flagrant abnormalities of lipoprotein patterns. It usually means that processed carbohydrates, particularly wheat products, are occupying too prominent a role in your food choices. It could mean that you're making excessive use of processed foods containining high-fructose corn syrup. It will not respond to a low-fat diet. It will, however, respond vigorously to fish oil.

Triglycerides are a crucial aspect of your plaque control program. We aim for 60 mg/dl or less. The ideal level is actually 45 mg/dl. At this level, all abnormal triglyceride-containing lipoproteins finally go away.