A variety of studies have shown how diet can greatly improve the llipid profile of people who suffer from high cholesterol. It turns out that the same diet improves the chances of preventing cancer or slowing the spread of cancer.
Studies showing how diets lower cholesterol:
Cranberry HDL study
Very low saturated fat diet
Glycemic Index Diet
The Mediterranean Diet
is the diet eaten by inhabitants of mediterranean countries based on local foods grown in those areas, and fish caught locally. It is a "peasant" diet, consumed by the poorer people of the region. The first studies were done in Italy, especially in Southern Italy and Sicily. However a similar diet is eaten in Greece, Lebanon, Southern France and Spain and Portugal.
is the major fat consumed in these countries.
In North America and Western Europe it is hard to find people who eat five
different green vegetables in their diet. In Sicily the "peasant" population search the countryside for their greens, and find in season over thirty
Low saturated fat.
Meat is a luxury and is eaten in small quantities. As in Asian diets, it gives flavour to the diet. In the US a family might eat an 8 ounce steak each. In Sicily 8 ounces of meat would form the basis of the family meal. Similarly cheese is eaten in moderation as part of the meal. Pizza, dripping with cheese, is a North American invention.
Mediterranean Ocean fish.
Several locally available fish are eaten regularly, providing essential omega 3 oils.
Life is harder than in our sedentary society. Walking is necessary to gather food necessary for their daily diet. Many areas in the Mediterranean are hilly, so walking also involves climbing, a more aerobic exercise.
Red wine contains RESVERATROL
, a chemical known to raise HDL. Sicily and one small area of France produce wines which are produced by longer fermentation with the grape skins included which results in a greater extraction of RESVERATROL
from the skins.
. Almonds and walnuts are eaten frequently. These provide fibre, essential oils and vegetable sterols.
Other cholesterol lowering foods.
Sesame seeds, pine nuts (pesto).
The portfolio study was done in Canada.
The study group consisted of adults with abnormal cholesterol profiles. They were divided into three groups: a very low saturated fat diet group: a very low saturated fat diet + statins group: and a group who ate a strict diet which contained the following elements:
All subjects improved their lipid profile. The very low sturated fat group improved by almost 10%. The very low saturated fat + statins reduced cholesterol by 30+ %. The portfolio food group reduced their cholesterol by a similar amount statistically no different from the statin group - almost 30%.
- high soy based food intake. This replaced most of the animal protein in the subjects' normal diet:
- vegetable sterols: in the Mediterranean diet these are obtained from the large quantity and variety of vegetables included in that diet. In this study the subjects ate margarine with added sterols instead of butter or cooking oils:
- high soluble fibre foods: especially oats and barley. High fibre diets are known to reduce the risk of bowel cancer:
- specific vegetables which are high in fibre and in sterols: okra and eggplant.
- nuts: this group ate almonds.
The researchers concluded that their "portfolio" diet was as efficient at lowering cholesterol as a strict diet plus statins.
You will find several cranberry based studies on the web. One was done in Britain. A group of obese men with abnormal lipid profiles drank low calory cranberry cocktail twice a day. Their HDL (good) cholesterol improved over the study period. They also lost a little weight and blood pressure improved.
Low Saturated Fat Diet
The basis of all dietary interventions in people who suffer from high cholesterol is a low saturated fat diet. Saturated fat is the building brick from which the body makes cholesterol. Saturated fat in our diet is mostly from meat and full fat dairy products. Whatever else the patient does the diet must be low in saturated fat.
Pomegranate juice has very high concentrations of antioxidants, which are associated with lowering of LDL (bad) cholesterol. Antioxidants probably reduce the risk of certain cancers.
The Glycemic Index diet
is a diet for diabetics or pre-diabetics. Foods are graded by how rapidly they elicit an insulin response and how large that insulin response is. This measure of a food's ability to elicit an insulin response is called the Glycemic Index.
A food with a large amount of easily available sugar will cause the blood sugar to rise rapidly. The body will respond with a large amount of insulin to push this sugar into the cells. Indeed it may over-respond with insulin. The sugar may be pushed into the cells too well, causing the blood sugar to fall too rapidly. The patient may experience low blood sugar in as little as forty minutes after eating that food. This food would have a high Glycemic Index
In contrast a food may have a limited amount of easily available sugar. It causes a slow rise in blood sugar and a slow and measured insulin response. Hypoglycemia is unlikely to follow. This food has a low Glycemic Index.
A small apple
may have 80 calories of carbohydrate. Carbohydrate is broken down to sugar upon digestion. A slice of white processed bread may have 80 calories of carbohydrate. A diabetic would count them as equal in measuring their contribution to that diabetic's daly allowance. But the sugar in an apple is absorbed more slowly. The starches in the apple are contained in little fibre packages which must be broken down before absorption. The starch in the bread is available immediately for absorption. The bread has a higher glycemic index rating than the apple although they both have the same calorie count. The glycemic index score of a food item is separate from its calorie count.
This insulin response has an effect on fats in the blood, especially triglycerides. Triglycerides are an oily fat that the body makes from carbohydrate. It is high in diabetics and alcoholics. Triglycerides are corosive on the artery walls and allow cholesterol to be deposited. In addition high triglycerides cause fatty infiltration of the liver. The liver both makes and breaks down cholesterol so any damage to the liver will affect cholesterol levels.