To Your Health
June, 2023 (Vol. 17, Issue 06)
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Diet Changes for Cholesterol

By Editorial Staff

An unhealthy diet is one of the primary causes of high cholesterol, which can clog arteries and elevate your risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack and stroke. While total cholesterol in and of itself is not necessarily a risk factor, high levels of specific cholesterol types – namely triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad") cholesterol – are definitely dangerous; and again, are often linked to poor diet.

New research suggests this dietary change could be the answer if your doctor has urged you to get your cholesterol in check: adopting a plant-based diet.

Because plant-based (vegetarian and vegan) diets eliminate many foods that contain "bad" cholesterol (namely animal products), they can lower cholesterol while also helping remove existing cholesterol buildup. According to the study, vegetarian and vegan diets were associated with a 14% reduction in "apoliprotein B" (a protein that carries fat and cholesterol to your body's cells and is a good indicator of total bad fats / cholesterol in your body).

The 14% reduction alone is significant considering how many people with cholesterol issues take medication (rather than making dietary or other changes), a point emphasized by one of the study's researchers in an online article summarizing the study findings: "This corresponds to a third of the effect of taking cholesterol-lowering medications such as statins, and would result in a 7% reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease in someone who maintained a plant-based diet for five years."

Findings are based on a review of 30 studies, conducted over a four-decade period and involving nearly 2,400 participants, that randomized subjects to follow either a vegetarian or vegan diet (rather than their usual omnivorous diet – the diet you and many other may follow; one that includes meat and dairy products). In addition to the reduction in apoB, participants on the vegetarian / vegan diets also experienced reductions in total cholesterol (average reduction: 7%) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL – 10% average reduction) compared to people who stayed on their omnivorous diet. Findings appear in the European Heart Journal.

If you suffer from high cholesterol – particularly the dangerous types – and are taking cholesterol medication, why not try this dietary change instead? Cutting out red meat and dairy might be difficult at first, but experiencing a cardiovascular event due to your high cholesterol is most certainly a far worse option. Talk to your doctor for more information.