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Small Changes Give Low Cholesterol Diet Added Punch

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WebMD Health News

Feb. 11, 2000 (Atlanta) -- Veggie burgers, soy milk, heart-healthy margarine -- consider them options in a well-diversified, cholesterol-lowering 'portfolio,' say authors of a new study. Their results show that small daily investments in these readily available foods can improve blood cholesterol levels significantly -- when combined with a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet. Ratios of 'good' and 'bad' cholesterol are important indicators of heart disease risk.

Describing his results as "very hopeful," lead author David J. A. Jenkins, MD, PhD, professor of metabolic/nutritional sciences at the University of Toronto School of Medicine, tells WebMD that 13 to 14 grams daily of soy or vegetable protein foods -- such as the typical veggie burger -- increased good cholesterol (HDL) levels and reduced total cholesterol. The study was published recently in the scientific journal Metabolism: Clinical and Experimental.

"We showed that people can make big differences in their cholesterol ratios -- and without eating particularly large portions. [People in the study] quite easily accommodated 14 grams of soy protein on a regular basis, just one meal in the day," says Jenkins. "Many companies are producing soy products, taking it quite seriously. There's much to choose from. It's much easier for our Western-diet eaters to get satisfaction from the manufactured products than from a block of tofu."

Previous research has shown that dietary changes can reduce bad cholesterol (LDL) by as much as 18%. By increasing intake of soluble fiber and vegetable protein, total cholesterol levels can be reduced by an additional five to 10% or more. Also, other plant products -- including flavonoids in fruits and vegetables, isoflavones in soy, and lignans in flaxseed -- may help prevent harm from cholesterol.

Cholesterol-lowering medications can achieve reductions of 15-20% -- but Jenkins says the same can be achieved through dietary changes.

In this study, the authors recruited 15 men and five women, average age 58, and all with high cholesterol. The 20 people were already participating in an eight-week National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) study that required a daily diet low in saturated fat (less than 7 mg daily) and cholesterol (less than 200 mg cholesterol daily). Every day, each person in the study substituted a meal item with something from a list of readily available soy, fiber, or vegetable protein foods.

The study participants were divided into two groups. Frozen dinners, veggie burgers and wieners, and vegetarian cold cuts were among the treatment group's choices. Soluble-fiber food choices consisted of dried soups and breakfast cereals containing oat, barley, and legumes. On the comparison group's list: typical low-fat items such as skim-milk yogurt, low-fat cheese, and cottage cheese, and a number of low-fat, low-soluble-fiber microwavable frozen foods.

At the end of the eight-week study, the treatment group's cholesterol levels showed significantly higher HDL cholesterol. The LDL cholesterol was also significantly reduced. While one woman was on hormone replacement therapy and one man was being treated with a cholesterol-lowering medication, neither responded differently from the other subjects, says Jenkins.

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Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. But your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe medication, such as statins. Following medication, dietary, and exercise instructions should result in improvements.

Your total cholesterol level is High, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe statins or other cholesterol-lowering medications.

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