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Heart Disease Health Center

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4 Popular Diets Heart Healthy

Whether it's Atkins, Ornish, Weight Watchers or Zone, it's the pounds that matter

Good Cholesterol: How Important Is It? continued...

Ornish says HDL is not really a factor because "HDL is really like a garbage truck that goes around picking up the garbage, which is bad cholesterol. When you don't have as much bad cholesterol -- garbage -- you don't need as many garbage trucks." He adds, "raising HDL is easy: eat a stick of butter. That will drive up your HDL, but it's not good for you."

Dansinger says HDL is a little more complicated. For example, "exercise increases HDL and we do think that low HDL is a risk factor for heart disease," he says.

"The good news about this study is that we have demonstrated that all these diets work. That means that physicians can work with patients to select the diet that is best suited to the patient. For example, if you have a patient who likes meat, it is unlikely that he or she will comply with the Ornish diet," says Dansinger.

"In the short run, I think weight loss trumps everything. If you lose weight, it doesn't matter how you lose it. But in the long run we don't know the effect of the macronutrients [carbohydrates, fats, and proteins] that you are eating," says Robert H. Eckel, MD, chair of the American Heart Association's Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Metabolism Council and professor of medicine at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. Eckel was not involved in the study.

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