Cholesterol-lowering foods beat low fat diet

A dietary intervention study of cholesterol-lowering foods with either two or seven counseling sessions significantly lowered LDL cholesterol (the lethal or bad cholesterol) compared with a control diet emphasizing reduced saturated fat consumption. The results between the groups receiving two versus seven counseling sessions were not significantly different. The bottom line? Cholesterol lowering foods are more highly healthy than a low fat diet.

USA Today reports that while “nutrition experts have known for years that some foods, such as oatmeal, nuts and soy products, lower cholesterol,” but new research “shows that a diet with several of these foods can decrease LDL (bad) cholesterol significantly.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, provides more proof that simply reducing dietary fat may not be the best way to boost one’s heart health.

The Los Angeles Times reports that for the “study tested a diet that contained a portfolio of cholesterol-fighting foods such as soy protein, nuts, ‘sticky’ fiber such as that found in oats and barley, and plant sterols.”

The 345 participants, all of whom had high cholesterol, “each followed one of three diets:

  • an ‘intensive portfolio’ diet,
  • a ‘routine portfolio’ diet, or
  • a high-fiber, low-saturated-fat diet rich in produce and whole grains.”

Of “the 267 subjects who completed the trial, all three groups lost roughly an equal amount of weight,” but participants “on one of the portfolio diets – intensive or routine – saw their LDL cholesterol levels decline between 13.1% and 13.8% after six months,” compared to the 3% decline in LDL levels seen in those on the high-fiber, low-saturated-fat diet.

Eating a predominantly vegetarian diet focused on lowering cholesterol — and getting advice on how to do so effectively – can drop LDL levels more than a diet focused only on reducing saturated fat, researchers found.

A diet rich in cholesterol-lowering foods dropped LDL by 13% to 14% over six months, depending on the level of accompanying counseling, compared with a drop of just 3% for patients on a control diet, David Jenkins, MD, of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, and colleagues reported in a issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association earlier this year.

So, if you have a high cholesterol (or high LDL cholesterol), the first step before starting a medication might be having one or two inexpensive sessions with a registered dietician.

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