Research on how to lower cholesterol with diet is a feature of plantbased.com. The cardiovascular disease associated with artery-clogging cholesterol is high on our list of preventable health issues, so the topic never gets old!
Yesterday, I posted about a tiny minority of people who never have to worry about dietary cholesterol. It reviewed a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The researchers measured heart-disease incidence among participants with “DNA-sequence variations that reduce[d] plasma levels of LDL cholesterol.”
In about 2 to 3 percent of the participants, “longevity genes” lowered LDL levels an average of 28 percent. This drop led to an 88-percent decrease in their risk of heart disease!
One obvious takeaway was that a drop in LDL cholesterol directly impacts heart health.
The likelihood is that the study’s participants were eating the Standard American Diet (SAD). However, they were fortunate enough to have inherited a cholesterol-lowering gene. That quirk of fate added years to their lives.
But what if our parents didn’t give us this unique gene? Is there another way we can lower our cholesterol and lengthen our lives?
And it doesn’t require taking prescription drugs, according to the results of this study headed by researchers from the University of Toronto’s Departments of Nutritional Sciences and Medicine.
Three Approaches to How To Lower Cholesterol With Diet
Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the study separated 46 individuals aged 35 to 85 into three groups. They followed one of three cholesterol-lowering intervention plans for one month. Researchers provided all their food except for fruits and vegetables.
- Group 1 Plan: Their diet was similar to a Flexitarian diet. Researchers described it as “a diet very low in saturated fat, based on milled whole-wheat cereals and low-fat dairy foods.” Group 1 took no statins.
- Group 2 Plan: Their diet was identical to Group 1’s. However, it included a therapeutic dose of lovastatin, a first-generation statin.
- Group 3 Plan: This group followed a plant-based diet described as “… containing viscous fibers, plant sterols, soy foods, and almonds.”
Table 4 of the study gives a representative menu for each group. Compared to what most Americans eat, both meal plans appear relatively healthy. Take this typical lunch:
Groups 1 and 2:
- Italian noodles soup with vegetables
- Grilled sandwich with fat-free cheese, whole-wheat bread, and light margarine
- A salad of mixed greens, tomato, cucumber, and oil-and-vinegar dressing.
- Spicy black bean soup
- Sandwich of soy deli slices, lettuce, tomato, and margarine enriched with plant sterols on oat-bran bread.
How much had each group’s LDL cholesterol dropped after 30 days?
- Group 1: 8%.
- Group 2: 30.9%
- Group 3. 28.6%
What did the JAMA study reveal about how to lower cholesterol with diet? From the first two group’s results, a semi-healthy diet (including some animal protein and an increase in plant-based foods) slightly decreased LDL cholesterol.
Adding a daily statin caused an even greater LDL drop than inheriting the cholesterol-lowering gene. But look at Group 3!
Eating the healthiest diet and skipping the statin resulted in a more significant drop in LDL than having the “longevity” gene!
Does This Prove How To Lower Cholesterol With Diet?
What about adopting Group 2’s flexitarian diet enhanced with a cholesterol-lowering pill about half of elderly Americans already take? Only an estimated 1 in 10 lovastatin users experience muscle aches, its most common side effect.
That’s not so bad. Well…
First, the JAMA trial lasted a month. After one year, Dr. Dean Ornish’s Lifestyle Heart Study plan led to an average 40-percent reduction in LDL cholesterol.
That far exceeds the 28-percent reduction attributed to the “longevity gene!” And it didn’t require a statin!
Even more importantly, a whole-food, plant-based diet not only lowered cholesterol but also shrank existing arterial plaque buildup!
The participants who stayed with it for five years experienced a reversal of their heart disease!
Beyond the Cholesterol Issue
As important as it is, lowering cholesterol is an isolated issue. When supplemented with essential nutrients such as Vitamins B12 and D, an entirely plant-based diet can accomplish far more than reducing LDL.
Plant-based foods contain zero cholesterol. And with a few exceptions – such as coconut and palm oils -they’re nearly entirely free of these disease-causing substances:
- total fat
- saturated fat
- trans-fatty acids
- arachidonic acid
As impressive as plants are for what they don’t contain, their list of health-giving substances is even more so:
- plant sterols
Whether you’re researching how to reduce your heart disease risk or hope to improve your overall health, you won’t find a diet more effective than a plant-based one!
Learning how to lower cholesterol with diet isn’t complicated. It’s simple – forget the drugs and eat nothing but whole-food plant-based ingredients!