London: Drinking and eating specially-formulated ‘healthy’ snacks could be just as good at lowering cholesterol as statins, a small study suggests. Researchers asked 54 people with high levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol to sacrifice two parts of their diet every day. Instead, they were told to replace them with snacks produced by one healthy food brand, which included chocolate bars and smoothies.
Participants who were instructed to make like-for-like swaps were told not to make no other radical alterations to their lifestyles but were encouraged to be more active. After a month, the average person saw their low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels drop by 9 percent. But four participants had falls of up to 30 percent, similar to the effects of powerful statins.
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The study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, was led by the Mayo Clinic. Snacks were provided by the US company Step One Foods, contained between 110 to 190 calories per serving, and delivered a minimum of 5g fiber. They were all made from real ingredients, such as walnuts, chia seeds, and berries.
Study author Dr. Elizabeth Klodas, a US cardiologist and founder of Step One Foods said simple diet hacks ‘could change the health of our country in 30 days’.
She added: ‘The implications of attaining such a significant cholesterol impact from a small food-based intervention are profound.’
Cholesterol is a fatty substance vital for the normal functioning of the body. But too much can cause it to build up in the arteries, restricting blood flow to the heart, brain, and rest of the body and raising the risk of angina, heart attacks, stroke, and blood clots.
High levels are mainly caused by eating fatty food, not exercising enough, being overweight, smoking and drinking alcohol — but it can also run in the family. Cholesterol is made in the liver and is carried in the blood by proteins and is broadly divided into two types.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) carries cholesterol from cells to the liver where it is broken down or passed as waste. This is called ‘good cholesterol’. ‘Bad cholesterol’, low-density lipoprotein (LDL), carries cholesterol to cells, with excessive amounts then building in the artery walls.
A diet heavy in animal fats such as butter, processed meat like bacon, and coconut oil can increase your bad cholesterol. Statins are one of the primary ways to treat high cholesterol and an estimated 7-8million people in the UK take them, and 35m in the US.
Research suggests around one in every 50 people who take statins over five years will avoid a serious event, such as a heart attack or stroke, as a result. However, those that take them can experience side effects like headaches, muscle pain, and nausea, that for some are not worth the potential protective benefits.
Co-author Dr. Stephen Kopecky, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic, said: ‘Many patients who are unwilling or unable to take statin drugs may be able to help manage their high cholesterol, or hypolipidemia with a realistic food-based intervention.’
High cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease. Heart and circulatory diseases cause 160,000 deaths each year in Britain – an average of 460 deaths a day. In the latest study, patients replaced the foods they would normally consume with alternatives formulated to lower their cholesterol.
After 30 days, the participants were found to have lowered their cholesterol count by an average of 9 percent. Cholesterol charity Heart UK says statins can reduce LDL cholesterol by around 30 percent, and sometimes even 50 percent with high doses. read more