A diet built on cholesterol lowering foods stands out in new study

by TMP Editor on August 27, 2011

The pharmaceutical industry reaps billions from the sale of statins, the top selling prescription drug in the world. But instead of taking drugs, putting some thought and discipline in a cholesterol-lowering diet could bring better results. Plus, a recent study found that a combination of cholesterol-lowering foods gets rid of more bad LDL cholesterol than a diet low in saturated fat.

As the science of dietary therapy to reduce cholesterol has evolved, eating a diet based on certain combinations of foods with cholesterol-lowering properties has shown promise, but for the first time, Dr. David Jenkins, a professor of nutrition and metabolism at University of Toronto designed a study comparing the long term effects of such a diet with conventional wisdom. His research, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, suggests that so called cholesterol-friendly foods, like soy products and tree nuts produce superior results when it comes to lowering LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol levels.

The cholesterol lowering diet

Jenkins and his colleagues recruited 351 people with high cholesterol levels from four Canadian universities. They designed two separate diets. The control diet was based on foods recommended by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration for lowering cholesterol. The alternative diet combined foods the latest research has shown to deliver the maximum benefit in lowering cholesterol and preventing heart disease, including tree nuts and lots of fiber from oats, barley and vegetables. Butter was replaced with margarine enriched with naturally occurring phytochemicals and meat was replaced with soy-based products.

After six months of the study, participants eating the alternative diet based on cholesterol-lowering foods saw their LDL “bad” cholesterol levels decrease a whopping 13 percent. Bad cholesterol for those following the traditional diet low in saturated fats decreased just 3 percent. The alternative diet produced those impressive results with a strict vegetarian regimen and many participants fell by the wayside. However, the study demonstrated that even small changes in the way one eats, if those changes are designed by a nutritionist with knowledge of the most appropriate food combinations, can significantly lower cholesterol without statin drugs.

The most potent cholesterol-lowering foods

Oatmeal, oat bran and high-fiber foods: Five to 10 grams or more of soluble fiber a day decreases your total and LDL cholesterol. Eating 1 1/2 cups of cooked oatmeal provides 6 grams of fiber. If you add fruit, such as bananas, you’ll add about 4 more grams of fiber.

Fish and omega-3 fatty acids:  The highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids are in, mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna, salmon and halibut.

Walnuts, almonds and other nuts: nuts are high in calories, so a handful a day will do. (1.5 ounces, or 42.5 grams). To avoid eating too many nuts, replace foods high in saturated fat with nuts. For example, instead of using cheese, meat or croutons in your salad, add a handful of nuts.

Olive oil: contains a potent mix of antioxidants that can lower your “bad” (LDL) cholesterol but leave your “good” (HDL) cholesterol untouched. Sauté. vegetables in it, add it to a marinade, or mix it with vinegar as a salad dressing. You can also use olive oil as a substitute for butter when basting meat or as a dip for bread.

Foods with added plant stanols: stanols are natural phytochemicals that block the absorption of cholesterol. Margarines, orange juice and yogurt drinks with added plant sterols can help reduce LDL cholesterol by more than 10 percent and don’t appear to affect levels of good cholesterol.

Source: ABC News, Science Daily, Mayo Clinic

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