The prescription of cholesterol reducing medications has increased greatly over the last few years for a couple of reasons. One is that there are more availability and knowledge of the drugs such as statins. Secondly we need them more as our cholesterol levels rise and rise.
A study by researchers from the University of Toronto has found that modifications to diet can take the place of cholesterol-lowering drugs (1). In particular combining particular food (groups) may have synergistic benefits. However, the unfortunate aspect for a lot of people is that the particular diet needs to include such foods as tofu and oatmeal.
The researchers hypothesised that combining the healthy foods could have similar impacts on LDL-cholesterol levels as the effects of a statin. Included in the study were 55 middle aged men and women who, already consuming a relatively healthy diet, were asked to include in their diets foods such as soy foods (ie tofu), raw almonds, barley, oatmeal, okra and plant sterol-enhanced margarine.
The researchers found that those who strictly adhered to the diet on average reduced their cholesterol levels by around 30% after being on the diet for one year. Those who were not quite as strict in their dietary habits still managed to reduce their cholesterol levels by more than 10%.
They concluded that it is possible to lower LDL-cholesterol levels by a similar order of magnitude as a first generation statin taken under medically controlled conditions.
The benefits of a healthy diet with low levels of dairy and small portions of lean meat are something we all are familiar with for our health and wellbeing. When measured scientifically then the results and the benefits achievable are highly significant.
David JA Jenkins, Cyril WC Kendall , et al. "Assessment of the longer-term effects of a dietary portfolio of cholesterol-lowering foods in hypercholesterolemia1, 2 , 3". American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 83, No. 3, 582-591, March 2006
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