Managing Triglycerides Levels
Triglycerides are a form of dietary fat found in meats, dairy produce and cooking oils. Triglycerides are either taken up by cells and tissues and used for energy or can be stored as fat. One in a hundred people in the UK have raised triglyceride levels. High levels of triglycerides increase your risk of developing atherosclerosis (when fat builds up in your arteries) and so increase your risk of heart attack or stroke.
What does NOS gene do?
The NOS gene produces an enzyme called nitric oxide synthase, which forms nitric oxide from the molecule L-arginine. Nitric acid has a number of essential roles in reducing the risk of heart disease. It inhibits molecules sticking to the sides of blood vessels, limits the oxidation of low-density lipoproteins, such as triglycerides and acts as a stimulant that widens blood vessels. Because of these properties, nitric oxide helps to limit the development of hypertension, atherosclerosis and other vascular diseases.
What is the effect of genetic variation at the NOS gene?
Individuals with two alleles produce an enzyme that is less efficient at producing nitric acid. The level of nitric acid produced is not sufficient at limiting the oxidation of low-density lipoproteins to a healthy level. Oxidation increases and leads to the production of more triglycerides. Triglyceride levels are therefore higher in individuals with two alleles.
How exactly does the NOS gene protect from atherosclerosis (the buildup of plaque in arteries)?
NOS performs a number of roles that reduce the risk of heart disease.
Nitric oxide decreases the expression of the protein MCP-1. This protein is a surface adhesion molecule, which is required for molecules to stick to the walls of blood vessels. By decreasing its expression, fewer molecules are able to stick to the walls, so the blood vessels are less likely to get blocked and so atherosclerosis is less likely to develop.
NOS also acts as a vasodilator, which results in the widening of the blood vessels. This lowers blood pressure: High blood pressure is a risk factor for atherosclerosis and so low blood pressure reduces an individual’s risk of atherosclerosis and heart attack.
What is the difference between triglycerides and cholesterol?
Both triglycerides and cholesterol are fatty substances, known as lipids. However, unlike triglycerides, not all cholesterol leads to heart disease. High-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) stops cholesterol from building up in your blood vessels and instead returns it to your liver. High-density lipoprotein cholesterol is ‘good’ cholesterol. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) facilitates plaque formation in the blood vessels and increases the risk of heart disease.
Does omega 3 reduce triglyceride levels?
Yes, but only significantly in individuals with a risk allele.
There is an important gene-nutrient interaction between omega 3 and the NOS gene, which in turn affects triglyceride levels. When omega 3 consumption is low, individuals with an allele have higher triglyceride levels than individuals with no SNP. However, when omega 3 levels are increased, individuals with an allele show a significant reduction in triglyceride levels. In comparison, individuals with no SNP do not show a reduction in triglyceride levels with a high omega 3 intake.
In addition to genetics, what are the main risks for heart disease?
The World Health Organisation stated that the main risks for heart disease are behavioural factors, such as unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, smoking and overconsumption of alcohol.
Backed by Science
Our in-house scientists have sorted through thousands of studies and we only use genes that are backed by a significant body of peer-reviewed research. Check out Nell’s Science Standard for more information.