What is the best diet for high cholesterol? Increasing evidence suggests that following a vegetarian diet could mean good news for your cholesterol numbers.
Numerous studies have shown that serum cholesterol levels in vegetarians tend to be lower than in non-vegetarians, even when compared to those non-vegetarians who cut out fatty meats.
We know that high cholesterol is a crucial risk factor for heart disease. But according to the American Heart Association, vegetarian diets tend to be lower in "total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol. Many studies have shown that vegetarians seem to have a lower risk of obesity, coronary heart disease (which causes heart attack), high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus and some forms of cancer."
The Lifestyle Heart Trial at the University of California offered convincing evidence that vegetarianism was the best diet for high cholesterol. The trial involved patients with a history of coronary heart disease. It showed that a low fat vegetarian diet combined with exercise was able to actually REVERSE the progress of coronary heart disease.
In 2007, a major study in Brazil compared cholesterol levels in groups of vegetarians and non-vegetarians. Allowing for other lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption and physical activity, the study still found that the vegetarian group were at significantly lower risk of developing coronary heart disease (CHD) than those who consumed meat.
Even when older - when the risk of CHD increases for everyone - this trend continues. The Brazilian study found that at age 64, meat eaters were found to be twice as likely to develop coronary heart disease as vegetarians.
The study also found that the vegetarians had lower BMIs even though their calorie intake was similar to that of the meat-eaters. This was because the vegetarians obtained fewer calories from protein and lipids. The vegetarians had significantly lower levels of cholesterol - except for HDL (the "good" cholesterol).
Dr David Jenkins of the University of Toronto ran tests in 2003 in which he put his participants on a vegetarian diet to lower cholesterol level with an emphasis on cholesterol lowering foods. His sample diets for lowering cholesterol cut patients' levels by almost a third after just one month. The study showed the success of the diet to be comparable to medication for treating high cholesterol.
Before you move towards a vegetarian diet, do remember that you need a good and balanced vegetarian diet.If you DO decide that your best diet for high cholesterol is a vegetarian one, make sure you understand how to achieve a balanced and healthy vegetarian diet.
Also remember that simply switching to a vegetarian diet is not a magic formula. You still need to make sure you limit your intake of fatty and sugary food - vegetarian or not.
Above all, talk to your doctor before choosing any diet to reduce your cholesterol numbers.