A Triglyceride—Neuropathy Connection?

A routine blood test for triglycerides, used as a screening tool to determine whether a person is at risk of developing cardiovascular disease, may also be a useful predictor of nerve damage, according to a recent study in the journal Diabetes.

Analyzing data from collected from 427 people with diabetic neuropathy, researchers at the University of Michigan and Wayne State University discovered that those whose blood test results showed elevated levels of triglycerides (a type of blood fat) were much more likely to experience a worsening of their neuropathy over the course of a year. Other factors, including their blood glucose levels and levels of other types of fat in their blood, did not appear to be significant.

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Triglycerides are generally measured as part of the routine battery of blood tests given at the doctor’s office; the American Diabetes Association recommends that most people with diabetes have their triglycerides measured at least once a year. According to Eva L. Feldman, MD, PhD, one of the study’s authors, the research finding means that doctors may be able to use these tests to catch people at risk of developing nerve damage at a point when interventions are likely to do the most good.

Measures for lowering triglyceride levels include avoiding refined carbohydrates, limiting the amount of saturated fat in the diet, drinking alcohol in moderation or not at all, and getting regular physical activity.

For more information, see the study’s abstract on the Diabetes Web site, or read “Triglycerides implicated in diabetes nerve loss,” by Anne Rueter.

  • CalgaryDiabetic

    Dear Diane.

    This study is most interesting that one has to keep the triglycerides under control. Since high triglycerides also happen when the blood glucose is high it can be seen why high sugars were blamed.

  • Diane Rheaume

    This is very interesting to discover. I have often wondered why the neuropathy began in my feet over two years or so before I was diagnosed with pre diabetes and then diabetes. I think I have had high triglycerides for years and years and I was not an overweight person. Several years ago the count was up to about 600. My doctor kept telling me to “stop drinking”, but I never drank except for a very occasional beer. I read that the medication “premarin”, taken for hormone replacement could cause triclycerides to be high. My doctor wouldn’t listen to me so I took myself off the medication after being on it for about six years. My count dropped about 300 points!! He asked what had happened and I quit his practice after 15 years!! I still don’t drink but occasionally, but at 62 am overweight and now I must take medication for the triglycerides which is bringing the numbers down. However, my neuropathy in my feet does not improve. Walking only makes my toes hurt more. My husband now knows and understands neuropathy since having chemo treatments for eight months. This seems to be his lasting side effect of the chemo. His feet are as uncomfortable as mine. Thanks for the article. Diane