Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Cholesterol & Triglycerides Health Center

Font Size
A
A
A

Diet Can Lower Bad Cholesterol Like Statin Drug

Diet High in Veggies, Fiber, and Soy Protein Lowers Bad Cholesterol
By
WebMD Health News

Feb. 8, 2005 -- Load up on fiber and vegetables: They lower cholesterol almost as much as cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, Canadian researchers report.

Here's your shopping list: Cholesterol-lowering margarines containing plant fats such as "Benecol" or "Take Control", soy proteins and soluble fibers like oats, barley, psyllium, plus all kinds of vegetables, including eggplant and okra.

It's important news for people who cannot tolerate statin drugs because of side effects, writes researcher David Jenkins, PhD, with the Clinical Nutrition and Risk Factor Modification Center at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

His report appears in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.High Cholesterol? Find Out if You're at Risk for PAD.

Diet Matches Statin Drugs

Both the diet and statin drugs can work in cutting heart disease and death. But for many people, changing their diet just hasn't worked well. Since statin drugs have been on the market, it's been hard to beat the ease (and effectiveness) of popping a pill.

Newer research on so-called "functional foods" has shown that plant fats (stanols or sterols), soy protein, and soluble fibers found in fruits, vegetables, and nuts all work to reduce "bad" LDL cholesterol. In fact, the FDA has approved these foods to carry a health claim that they reduce the risk of heart disease.

Each of these foods lowers cholesterol by up to 7%. Combined, they cut cholesterol nearly as much as the statin drug Mevacor, writes Jenkins.

In their study, Jenkins and his colleagues asked 34 adults -- all with high cholesterol -- to try three different diets for one month each. Between diet programs, the volunteers had a few weeks off.

The diet programs:

  • The control diet: A very low-saturated-fat diet, which replaced saturated fats with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. When replaced in a diet, these fats have been shown to decrease "bad" LDL cholesterol. The components of the diet included plenty of skim milk, fat-free cheese, yogurt, egg substitute, egg white, safflower oil, sunflower oil, and fiber from whole-wheat breakfast cereal.
  • The statin diet: A very low-saturated-fat diet plus 20 milligrams of Mevacor.
  • The portfolio diet: A diet high in vegetables, soy protein foods (soy milk and soy burgers), almonds, and high-fiber foods (from oats, barley psyllium, okra, and eggplant). Fats were delivered from plant sterol and stanols -- naturally occurring substances that can lower cholesterol.

After everyone had tried all the diets, the results were tabulated:

  • Portfolio diet and statin drugs had nearly the same results: The portfolio diet reduced LDL cholesterol by 30%, the statin drugs by 33%, and the control diet by 9%.
  • 9 people (26%) achieved their lowest "bad" LDL cholesterol on the portfolio diet.

Dietary changes seem to equal the effect of statin drugs in reducing LDL cholesterol. A diet that combines a number of cholesterol-lowering foods may provide an option for reducing mild-to-moderate LDL cholesterol in people without pre-existing heart disease, writes Jenkins.

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

Is Your Cholesterol Level Heart Healthy?
What is your LDL (low-density lipoprotein) level?

Get the latest Cholesterol Management newsletter delivered to your inbox!


or
Answer:
Desirable
0-199
Borderline
200-239
High
240+

Your level is currently

Congratulations! Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal.

Congratulations! Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is borderline high. If your LDL goes higher, your total cholesterol level could become Borderline High. Consider reducing the amount of foods you eat with saturated fats and increasing physical activity. If you get more exercise, your level of "good" HDL cholesterol may increase, which could also help to keep your levels of LDL and total cholesterol in check.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL. The HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL because the HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately 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 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, 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.

Start Over

Step:  of 

Today on WebMD

cholesterol lab test report
Article
Compressed heart
Article
 
Compressed heart
Article
chocolate glazed donut and avocado
SLIDESHOW
 
Heart Foods Slideshow
Slideshow
Cholesterol Fact or Fiction
Quiz
 
Food & Fitness Planner
TOOL
Attractive salad
ARTICLE
 
Heart Disease Overview Slideshow
SLIDESHOW
worst sandwich slideshow
SLIDESHOW
 
Fat Foods Fit Foods
SLIDESHOW
Bad Cholesterol
VIDEO
 

WebMD Special Sections