At present those with cholesterol are prescribed cholesterol lowering drugs like statins and a diet that cuts out foods high in saturated fat. New research shows that some foods may help to lower cholesterol.
Released online Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Assn., the study found that incorporating several cholesterol-lowering foods — such as soy protein and nuts — into a diet can reduce bad cholesterol far more effectively than a diet low in saturated fat. The authors assert, levels of LDL, the “bad” cholesterol, can drop to half that seen by many patients who take statins, sold under such names as Lipitor, Crestor or Zocor. That could reduce a person's risk of fatal heart attack or stroke by 10%, the authors suggested.
High blood cholesterol affects nearly 1 in 6 Americans and it makes a person nearly twice as likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke as someone whose total cholesterol falls into a healthy range. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is one component of this overall number. Last year, statin and other lipid-regulating drugs were the nation's most commonly prescribed medications, with more than 355 million prescriptions dispensed, according to the healthcare information firm IMS Health.
Cleveland Clinic cardiologist Dr. Steve Nissen, who was not involved in the study warned that this does not mean people stop taking statins. Dietary changes do not have nearly the research track record that statins have racked up for heart attack prevention, he said. “Patients don't want to take the medications, and I'm afraid that if you tell them there's a diet that works just as well, then they'll do that instead,” he said.
This new study was a multi-center Canadian study that tested a diet that contained a portfolio of cholesterol-fighting foods such as soy protein, nuts, “sticky” fiber such as that found in oats and barley, and plant sterols. Subjects were instructed to eat a handful of nuts such as almonds or walnuts every day, and to substitute milk and meats with soy and tofu products as much as possible.