Scientists prescribe the best diet to fight cholesterol

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2011-08-24 16:57

High cholesterol levels, particularly the low density kind (LDL), have been plaguing the Western world for decades, and individuals with elevated LDL have been given many dietary guidelines over the years, mostly outlining an “avoidance” diet focused on lowered levels of saturated fat and animal products. Now a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has changed the usual focus towards the dietary do’s.

Researchers found that eating cholesterol-lowering foods like nuts, soy protein, and certain fiber-rich items results in bigger drops in “bad” LDL cholesterol than simply avoiding high-fat meat, eggs, and dairy foods. “Doctors tend to focus on telling patients what to avoid instead of what to add,” said study co-author Cyril Kendall, a research scientist at the University of Toronto.

The study involved 345 individuals with high cholesterol in two comparison groups. They were assigned either to a group which received advice on cholesterol-lowering foods such as oats, barley, soy milk, tofu, nuts, and legumes, or to a group advised to reduce fat intake by eating low-fat dairy products, whole-grain cereals, and fruits and vegetables, guidelines which are also endorsed by the American Heart Association.

The first group had nearly a 14 percent drop in LDL cholesterol -- the average level dropped from 171 milligrams/deciliter to 145 mg/dL -- while the control group had only a 3 percent decline, a drop from 171 to 163. (A level above 160 mg/dL is considered high.) The study didn’t address whether health outcomes, like heart attack prevention, would be affected by this level of decline.

The diet which brought about the dramatic decrease in cholesterol is summarized below:

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