In a recent study from Stanford University in California, researchers have found that it is the type of food included in a low fat diet, not necessarily the low fat diet itself that may be responsible for reductions in cholesterol.
In a recent study comparing two low fat diets, one plant based and one containing convenience low-fat products, researchers found the plant based diet lead to greater reductions in LDL cholesterol, the form of cholesterol that is linked with cardiovascular disease. The study of120 men and women found that after four weeks, those who had followed the plant based diet experienced an average decrease in their total cholesterol of 18 points (mg/deciliter) and a decrease in their LDL by 14. The participants who followed the comparison diet experienced a decrease of 9 and 7 points respectively.
The two diets that participants were randomly assigned to follow were both low in total fat -- 30 percent of daily calories -- and saturated fat, which was limited to 10 percent of calories. The diets were also equal in their amounts of cholesterol, protein and carbohydrates. Where they differed was in the food choices. One diet was made up of large daily doses of whole grains like oats and brown rice, along with vegetables, soy protein, fruit, beans and nuts. The other diet was what the typical American might eat when cutting fat: foods like skinless chicken, potatoes, low-fat cheese and reduced-fat snack foods.
These study findings support the fact that the simple avoid-fat message has been changing in recent years to instead advise people on what foods to favor -- including fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and whole grains.
Researchers note that the secret of the plant-based diet does not come down to any single food component. Instead, the benefit likely stems from the combination of natural cholesterol-fighters found in such foods, including fiber and so-called plant sterols -- cholesterol-lowering compounds that are now being added to some food products for that purpose.
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