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.

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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.

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.

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