Wednesday, December 09, 2009


Sip green tea or munch on a few nuts to fight bad cholesterol
High blood lipids (cholesterol or triglycerides) requires a combination of diet and exercise as initial treatment. Reducing dietary calories and intake of saturated fat, and consuming a high-fibre diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables are obvious first steps. Other dietary measures exist, and here is an overview of the most popular ones.

The American heart association (AHA) recommends at least two servings of fatty fish per week to prevent heart disease. The omega – 3 fatty acids in fish lower bad cholesterol and triglycerides. According to the AHA, fish oil supplements, which contain massive amounts of omega – 3 fatty acids, are recommended only in refractory hypertriglyceridemia and are not meant for the general population. Vegetarian sources of omega 3 fatty acids include canola oil, soyabeanoil, flaxseed oil and nuts. Consuming moderate amounts of nuts definitely helps lower cholesterol particularly the bad cholesterol. One study showed that taking 20 percent of daily calories from a PUFA rich source like almonds or walnuts significantly lowered the bad lipids, Green tea and not black tea or oolong tea, has a similar beneficial effect.

Garlic: Something that smells this bad ought to do something good, and garlic indeed has many healthful properties but lowering cholesterol is not one of them. Sorry. And the same goes for soy protein which has only a minor effect on blood cholesterol. Soy protein is a great food but it is not worth having just for the sake of cholesterol.

Guggulipid made from the resin of the mukul myrrh tree, is a controversial product. Indian studies attest to its cholesterol,lowering effect but American research does not bear it out. Moreover, there are questions about the quality of the Indian research that led to the claims of health benefit. Pity.

Red yeast rice: This is a fermented rice dish popular in Chinese cuisine. It contains monacolins, which are substances with HMG COA reductase inhibitor activity similar to that of the statin drugs used to lower blood cholesterol. Unfortunately, not all strains of the rice have the same activity, and extracts of red yeast rice are poorly standardized.

Calcium Supplements improve the composition of blood lipids, and a diet high in calcium is inversely associated with cardiovascular risk. However, in postmenopausal women, who are the chief target of calcium and Vitamin D supplements, there is no reduction of cardiovascular risk with such supplements

The writer is a consultant in Internal Medicine, The Hindu wellness December 11 2008

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