There may be good news for diabetics. Doctors can predict which diabetic patients may come down with the nerve condition called neuropathy by measuring their triglycerides, according to new research. Diabetics with elevated triglycerides are much more likely to suffer from the condition, which can cause tingling, pain and numbness in the hands, arms, feet and legs, according to a study from the University of Michigan and Wayne State University. Diabetic neuropathy affects about 60 percent of the 23 million people in the U.S. who have diabetes.

When researchers looked at the data from more than 427 people who had diabetes as well as neuropathy, they found that those with elevated levels of triglycerides were much more likely to have a worsening of symptoms over the course of a year. Other factors--like a higher blood glucose or higher levels of other fats in the blood--did not appear to be significant. The research appeared online in the journal Diabetes.

"In our study, elevated serum triglycerides were the most accurate at predicting nerve fiber loss, compared to all other measures," says Kelli A. Sullivan, Ph.D., co-first author of the study, according to NewsRx Health & Science.

Getting those triglyceride levels down may help patients avoid the disorder. "Aggressive treatment can be very beneficial to patients in terms of their neuropathy," said Eva L. Feldman, MD, senior author of the study, according to NewsRx Health and Science.

There's another reason to work on lowering your triglycerides: high numbers put you at risk for cardiovascular disease.

"Lowering your triglycerides can be beneficial to your overall health," says Kelly A. O'Connor, registered dietitian and diabetes educator at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore.

How to Lower Your Levels

  • Decrease the amount of fat in your diet.
  • Use "good" fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) and avoid saturated fats. This means skipping the butter and using an  oil such as olive, canola, peanut or sunflower instead. Walnuts and almonds are a good source of monounsaturated fat, but enjoy them in small amounts as they are high in calories.
  • Avoid fast food restaurants and fried foods, O'Connor recommends, and cut down on commercial baked goods since they may contain trans fats.
  • Keep your fat intake to between 30 and 40 grams per day, she says, and be sure to exercise regularly.