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JAMA report details foods to reduce cholesterol

August 23, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Exercise and medications play a role in controlling cholesterol, but a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows how certain foods can really make a difference in lowering "bad" cholesterol.

Bonnie Wood is keeping her LDL cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol) levels in check by tweaking her already-healthy diet.

"The initial change was like just to increase the fiber content of my diet," said Wood.

The dietary portfolio of cholesterol-lowering foods includes lentils and nuts, okra and eggplant.

"Vegetables like okra, eggplant, all of these are somewhat sticky. They all take out cholesterol from the body," said Dr. David Jenkins, St. Michael's Hospital, University of Toronto.

Dr. Jenkins and co-authors studied 351 older men and women on the verge of requiring medication to control their cholesterol. For six months some participants followed a standard conventional therapeutic diet and others followed an enriched cholesterol-lowering diet.

"We had a very significant improvement in LDL cholesterol-lowering with the dietary portfolio," said Jenkins. "They went down to 13 to 14 percent reduction, so a very significant difference between what would be the routine therapeutic diet and the portfolio or enriched combination therapeutic diet."

"They gave us a nice little compact cookbook to try and incorporate some things that maybe it was hard to incorporate in one's diet, like lentils. You kind of think, Well, what do I do with lentils? So there were recipes and things like barley and any other kind of fiber just to make it a bit more interesting," said Wood.

Participants also received sessions with a dietitian.

"They can make a difference in their own LDL-cholesterol levels by adherence to a good diet. Enrichment with the portfolio of cholesterol-lowering foods may actually help them very markedly to make use of a good therapeutic diet," said Jenkins.

"I would prefer 100 percent to try and lower it by a program of food rather than statin drugs," said Wood.

The study appears in this week's JAMA, Journal of the American Medical Association.

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