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
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
"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
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.