High cholesterol: Nutritionist reveals top prevention tips
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Cholesterol is essential for the body. Included in the long list of contributions is building the structure of cell membranes and making hormones. However, having high LDL cholesterol levels – the “bad” type – presents a grave health problem because it clogs up the arteries. Fortunately, you can lower LDL cholesterol levels by adhering to the DASH diet, research suggests.
DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The DASH diet is a healthy-eating plan primarily designed to help treat or prevent high blood pressure (hypertension).
The diet comprises foods that are rich in potassium, calcium and magnesium, all of which lower hypertension.
The diet limits foods that are high in sodium, saturated fat and added sugars.
Research published in the British Journal of Nutrition sought to establish whether the benefits of the DASH diet extend to lowering high cholesterol.
A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials (RCT) was conducted to determine the effects of the DASH diet on cardiovascular risk factors.
A RCT study involves similar people randomly assigned to two (or more) groups to test a specific drug, treatment or other intervention.
Researchers sifted through Medline, Embase and Scopus databases and identified a total of twenty articles reporting data on 1,917 participants.
The duration of interventions ranged from two to 24 weeks.
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What did the review reveal?
The DASH diet caused “significant” decreases in total cholesterol levels.
Adherents of the dietary approach also saw marked reductions in their blood pressure markers.
“The DASH diet improved cardiovascular risk factors and appeared to have greater beneficial effects in subjects with an increased cardiometabolic risk,” the researchers concluded.
Much more research is needed to determine the effect the DASH diet has on cholesterol levels but the limited findings are encouraging.
A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition also found the diet reduced cholesterol levels.
The study of 36 participants found the DASH diet “significantly” reduced LDL cholesterol.
LDL cholesterol is commonly branded the “bad” cholesterol because it clings to the inside of your artery walls, thereby raising your risk of heart disease.
What does DASH diet involve?
The DASH diet is a flexible and balanced eating plan that helps create a heart-healthy eating style for life.
The DASH diet is rich in vegetables, fruits and whole grains. It includes fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans and nuts.
It limits foods that are high in saturated fat, such as fatty meats and full-fat dairy products.
When following DASH, it is important to choose foods that are:
- Rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium, fibre and protein
- Low in saturated fat
- Low in sodium.
The foods at the centre of the DASH diet are naturally low in sodium.
So just by following the DASH diet, you’re likely to lower your intake of sodium.
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