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Genes Steer Your Cholesterol Ship

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The second, less obvious point, she says, is that heavier people reap much less benefit from cholesterol-lowering diets than do thinner folks. "A person who's overweight gets into trouble for two reasons. Being overweight itself raises their cholesterol," she explains, "and even when they try to lower cholesterol by diet, they won't get as much cholesterol lowering."

People "should realize that being overweight has very major consequences, and the only way to undo those consequences is to get thin. And "the only way" to do that, says Denke, is by eating fewer calories.

Exercise is more helpful for maintaining -- rather than spurring -- weight loss, says Denke. "We can undo an hour's worth of exercise with one little cookie. People will overeat for five minutes, not realizing that it will then take them five hours to burn off those calories with exercise. We have to focus on what we're putting in our mouth. Our study shows that it's really important to make good, sensible choices."

In the struggle with genes, Denke recommends switching from higher-fat choices to lean meats and low-fat dairy products, such as 2% or lower milk and low-fat sour cream.

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