Small Changes Give Low Cholesterol Diet Added Punch
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.