The Relationship Between Triglycerides and Alcohol Consumption

Simply put, triglycerides and alcohol have a direct relationship with each other.

The more alcohol you take in, the more your triglyceride levels rise. That is because an alcoholic beverage contains carbohydrates. In addition, it contains those carbohydrates because alcohol is made by fermenting plant matter that has starch or sugars inside it. However, if we are to understand exactly how those carbohydrates become fat, we need to know a bit more on how our body metabolizes food.

Let us consider carbohydrates first. Carbohydrates have many forms, but the most common one is glucose, which is the main energy source of our body. However, alcohol has starch, which is too complex to be used by our organs.

Therefore, when we take in alcohol, the first thing that happens is a breakdown of the starch into glucose, by means of our body’s enzymes like amylase. After that, the glucose is taken up by our body’s cells as an energy source, with the help of insulin from our pancreas. Any excess glucose at this point is now taken to the liver to be stored as glycogen for later use.

The liver however, can only store a certain amount of glycogen. In addition, when it exceeds that level, the body’s insulin, together with other chemicals, trigger an alternative pathway in the liver called lipogenesis, or fat synthesis. A substance called acetyl-coA (which comes from glucose), instead of being converted to glycogen, is now converted to fatty acids, which after a few more processes become triglycerides and other forms of fat, such as HDL (good cholesterol), LDL (bad cholesterol), and others.

Now let us consider triglycerides. They have many variants, but all are formed by combining three fatty acids with another substance called glycerol. Their formation represents our body’s way of storing excess fatty acids. Contrary to popular belief however, triglycerides are actually important to the body. They are alternative energy sources, and help transport dietary fat for storage. Nevertheless, we only need a relatively low level of these substances (about <150 mg/dL). In addition, when we exceed those levels, they begin to accumulate inside special connective tissues called adipose tissue. Adipose tissue (or our fats as we know it), is the body’s way of storing all those triglycerides.

If a person only takes in moderate amounts of alcohol and other carbohydrates, then all of the glycogen, triglycerides, and adipose would be kept to a normal level by the body. However, too much adipose (as in fat deposits in your abdomen, legs, etc) presents a very significant problem. First, it can lead to insulin resistance. This means your body does not want to use your glucose anymore. Left unchecked, it can lead to diabetes. Too much fat also means a higher risk for heart disease, hypertension, and stroke, because your blood vessels become thickened from a hardened mix of fat and other deposits.

Therefore, to put it short, triglycerides and alcohol can be a dangerous duo. Consuming alcohol may be OK and fun at low levels, but at higher ones not only will you get drunk and possibly be involved in an accident, but also later in your life you will be setting yourself up for long term disaster from many angles, especially when you are getting fat from drinking.