To demonstrate just how effective a plant-based diet can be in lowering cholesterol, one study compared a cholesterol-lowering drug (lovastatin) with a cholesterol-lowering plant-based diet (Jenkins, 2003)
The results show, that using a diverse array of cholesterol-lowering foods in the diet, actually increased the effectiveness of the diet as a treatment for high cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia), producing results comparable to a statin drug but without the side effects (Gigleux, 2007)
Blue zones are geographical regions, where people live longer than average, based on their high plant-based diet, lifestyle & community driven culture.
"Living well, longer" is the phrase used by the Blue Zones to describe a decade of research on five areas around the world that are also packed with centenarians.
Pioppi is one of these blue zones - a small Italian village in Campania with 319 inhabitants who have an unusually high concentration of citizens over the age of 100, with very low rates of Alzheimer's and heart disease.
The community-driven culture of the worlds blue zones, also play a significant role in the inhabitant's good health & longevity as researched by Prof. George Slavich UCLA
Dr. Slavich points to evidence which shows that the quality and quantity of an individual's social relationships, is a stronger predictor of chronic disease-related mortality than physical inactivity, alcohol use, and smoking.
Compared to people who are socially connected, those living in isolation are more likely to suffer from viral infections and inflammation
THE WESTERN DIET
In contrast, the western diet has a lot to answer for: Obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, all medical conditions that are directly related to our typical western diet and/or lifestyle.
Too much-saturated fat, too much sugar-sweetened fizzy drinks, too much salt, too much animal-sourced foods, too much wheat and simply not enough fruit & veggies!
DIET & LIFESTYLE FACTORS
Non-hereditary high cholesterol is related to poor diet (typical western diet) & lifestyle factors (inactivity)
Improved diet & lifestyle interventions are the most important approach to lowering cholesterol, in particular, LDL Cholesterol.
Elevated LDL Cholesterol levels are linked to heart attacks & strokes
GP BEST PRACTICE ADVICE
Upon diagnosis of elevated cholesterol, your GP’s best practice advice is usually, three months of improved diet & lifestyle interventions, followed by a re-test of serum cholesterol levels. After three months, your GP will most likely discuss treatment options with you - usually statin therapy, if necessary.
Most patients, however, are unaware of the side effects associated with statin therapy. Typically, patients will experience intense muscle aches & pains & also fatigue. Many complain of zero energy, further inhibiting their ability to exercise
EVIDENCE-BASED NUTRITIONAL STRATEGIES TO LOWER CHOLESTEROL:
• One of the most important features of blue zone diets is the combination of olive oil (a source of monounsaturated fats & antioxidants) & the intake of omega 3 fatty acids (oily fish: salmon, mackerel)
• Eat less saturated fat & cholesterol by reducing the consumption of animal products (meat, red meat & dairy products)
• Increase consumption of fiber-rich plant foods (soluble (absorbs water): fruits/veg/beans & insoluble (doesn’t absorb water): whole grains/nuts) slows digestion, controls blood sugar, reduces cortisol release.
• Increase Monounsaturated fats i.e nuts & seeds.
• Follow a low-glycaemic diet – replace processed foods & refined white carbohydrates/sugars with whole foods.
• Maintain ideal body weight
Foods such as oats and barley contain a type of fiber known as beta-glucan, which helps to reduce cholesterol. Daily consumption of 3g of soluble oat fiber typically lowers cholesterol by 8-23%. For every 1% drop in cholesterol levels, there is a 2% decrease in the risk of developing heart disease. To help lower cholesterol, aim for 30-35g fiber rich foods per day (Ripsin, 1992)
(allium) is an important protective factor against heart disease & stroke. It has lowered cholesterol levels even in healthy individuals, as well as positive effects on blood flow. Supplemental garlic preparations are modest in their efficacy in comparison to fresh raw garlic, which can be crushed & added into soups, stews & casseroles after cooking to increase efficacy & therapeutic outcome.
OTHER CHOLESTEROL LOWERING FOODS
• Green Leafy Vegetables – i.e spinach, kale, Brussel sprouts
• Nuts – whole almonds
• Chia & Flax Seeds – whole or ground
• Olive Oil – extra virgin cold pressed
• Salmon – fresh, wild or organic
• Gluten Free Whole Grains: oats, quinoa, brown rice
• Green Tea – matcha green tea
• Beans & Legumes – lentils, chickpeas
• Turmeric – ground dried or fresh root
• Garlic – raw added to foods afterwards
• Sweet Potatoes
• Gigleux, I., Jenkins, D.J., Kendall, C.W et al. (2007) Comparison of a dietary portfolio diet of cholesterol-lowering foods and a statin on LDL particle size phenotype in hypercholesteraemic participants. British Journal of Nutrition 98 (6):1229-1236 [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17663803
( Accessed: 14th April 2018)
• Illingworth, D.R., Stein, E.A., Mitchel, Y.B et al. (1994) Comparative effects of Lovastatin & Niacin in primary hypercholesterolemia. Archives of Internal Medicine.154(14):1586-1595 [online] Available at: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/article-abstract/619082
( Accessed: 14th April 2018)
• Jenkins, D.J, Kendall, C.W., Marchie, A. et al. (2003) Effects of a dietary portfolio of cholesterol-lowering foods vs lovastatin on serum lipids and C-reactive protein. JAMA The Journal of the American Medical Association 290 (4) pp.502-510 [online] Available at: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/196970
(Accessed 14th April 2018)
• Ripsin, C.M et al. (1992) Oat products & lipid-lowering, a meta-analysis. JAMA. The Journal of the American Medical Association. 267(24):pp.3317-3325