Diet as effective as drugs in lowering cholesterol

February 9, 2005 in Heart Health, Nutrition Topics in the News

Diet as effective as drugs in lowering cholesterol

Canadian researchers report that a diet rich in fiber and vegetables lowered cholesterol just as much as taking a statin drug. People who cannot tolerate statin drugs because of side effects can try the diet, which the volunteers easily followed, the researchers said.

David Jenkins of St. Michael's Hospital and the University of Toronto and colleagues created what they called a diet "portfolio" high in soy protein, almonds, and cereal fiber as well as plant sterols -- plant-based compounds used in cholesterol-lowering margarines, salad dressing and other products.

They tested their diet on 34 overweight participants, comparing it with a low-fat diet and with a normal diet plus a generic statin drug lovastatin. Each volunteer followed each regimen for one month, with a break in between each treatment cycle.

Jenkins and colleagues reported that the low-fat diet lowered LDL -- the low-density lipoprotein or "bad" cholesterol -- by 8.5 percent after a month. Statins lowered LDL by 33 percent and the "portfolio" diet lowered LDL by nearly 30 percent.

The portfolio diet was rich in soy milk, soy burgers, almonds, oats, barley, psyllium seeds, okra and eggplant. The diet also included a plant sterol margarine product. Several of these have been proven to lower cholesterol.

The researchers said nine volunteers achieved the lowest LDL levels with the portfolio diet.  Researchers reported that the volunteers all felt full on the diets although the "portfolio" diet resulted in more bowel movements.

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