For people watching their cholesterol, standard tests usually monitor how much plaque is building up in the arteries that could lead to heart trouble. Of course, keeping healthy cholesterol levels is one of the best ways in decreasing the risks of heart disease. Though there are medications to help, a few changes in your diet can reduce cholesterol and improve your heart health.
There’s no shortage of studies that offer various ways to lower cholesterol, and StudyFinds has posted many over the years. We’ve selected five pieces of research in particular that could improve cholesterol and fat levels, leading to better heart health.
As always, be sure talk to your doctor before making any changes to your lifestyle and diet.
Add avocado to your daily diet
Everyone knows an apple a day keeps the doctor away. However, adding avocado to your daily diet can do the same for high cholesterol, according to a new study.
The study gathered 45 adults, either overweight or obese. Each participant followed three separate diets over a five-week period: a low-fat diet, a moderate-fat diet, and a moderate-fat diet that included one avocado per day. Upon completing the experiment, participants displayed significantly lower levels of oxidized LDL cholesterol compared to the beginning of the study, or after completing the other two diet assignments.
In the randomized, controlled feeding study, the results show that eating one avocado per day was associated with lower levels of bad cholesterol. Also shown in the results, avocados help do away with LDL particles that have been oxidized within the body. This process of oxidization can be harmful to the human body in the same way that oxygen can damage food.
Soy protein may help lower cholesterol
Many people looking to eat less meat and still maintain their muscle mass may consider switching to soy protein. It is a great source of plant-based protein, and it may lower cholesterol in significant amounts, according to a new study.
Researchers performed a meta-analysis on 43 existing trials evaluating soy’s health benefits. They also set out to analyze the effects of soy on heart health and cholesterol. Results show that soy protein reduced LDL cholesterol by three to four percent in adults.
“When one adds the displacement of high saturated fat and cholesterol-rich meats to a diet that includes soy, the reduction of cholesterol could be greater,” says lead author Dr. David Jenkins of Unity Health Toronto.
Mediterranean diet with olive oil improves good cholesterol function
A Mediterranean diet traditionally includes fruits, vegetables, pasta and rice. Individuals seeking to manage their cholesterol levels may want to try a Mediterranean diet with an extra serving of virgin olive oil. Researchers say the combination may improve the effects of what’s commonly referred to as “good” cholesterol.
In this study, 296 people at risk for cardiovascular disease with an average age of 66 were randomly selected to try out three diets. One plan followed a Mediterranean diet enriched with virgin olive oil (about four tablespoons) each day. The second followed a Mediterranean diet enriched with extra nuts (about a fistful) daily. The third was a healthy “control” diet that reduced consumption of red meat, processed foods, high-fat dairy products, and sweets.
Both Mediterranean diets, including the one that had extra doses of olive oil, improved the functioning of high-density lipoproteins or HDL (known as the “good” cholesterol). This is beneficial because it functions in several ways to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease.
For individuals at high risk of cardiovascular disease, HDL often doesn’t work as well. This makes the study’s support of a Mediterranean diet with olive oil especially important for this demographic.
Gene-silencing drug may cut cholesterol in half
A new class of “gene-silencing” drugs can cut cholesterol levels for patients at risk of heart disease in half. Inclisiran, the drug that uses RNA interference therapy, a technique known to “switch off” genes, especially targeting those responsible for high levels of cholesterol.
The study involved 497 patients with high cholesterol at risk for cardiovascular disease and gave the drug via injection at differing doses and placebos. The results showed that just after one month of receiving a single treatment of the actual drug, levels of LDL cholesterol, or “bad cholesterol,” in participants reduced by 51 percent.
After six months, participants receiving one dose saw levels reduced by 42 percent. However, the control group saw their cholesterol increase by two percent. Patients on two doses at six months saw levels drop by up to 53 percent. Upon extending the tests to eight months, results show that the participants had lowered cholesterol levels, and there were no unforeseen recorded side effects.
The procedure would be helpful to patients who often forget to take their statin doses or in those who take the maximum amount allowed, yet still suffer from elevated cholesterol levels.
Cut out carbs, not saturated fat
Cutting out fats is a common go-to “prescription” for people with high cholesterol. One study says that idea is all wrong, however: it’s actually carbs that’s the problem.
Findings of the study suggest that there’s no reason patients with high cholesterol should avoid eating saturated fats like meat, eggs, and cheese. Thus, suggesting that a low-carb diet is actually best for people with increased risk of heart disease.
Patients with high cholesterol as a result of a genetic disorder have familial hypercholesterolemia (FH), a condition that can cause cholesterol levels to be two to four times higher than normal. According to the study, men with FH will develop heart disease up to 20 years earlier than normal. Half of men with untreated FH will likely have a heart attack before age 50. For women, 30 percent of untreated FH patients will likely have a heart attack by age 60.
For the past 80 years, people with familial hypercholesterolemia have been told to lower their cholesterol with a low saturated fat diet. However, the study showed that a more “heart healthy” diet is one low in sugar, not saturated fat. Also noting that, the low-carb diet is helpful for a variety of people at risk of heart disease, including those with high blood pressure, diabetes, or weight problems.