Key points:

  • Focussing on your saturated fat intake alone may not be in your best health interest.
  • Additional health benefits can be obtained from a slight change in current thinking.

Combining foods with recognised cholesterol-lowering properties has proven highly effective in lowering total serum cholesterol and reducing ‘bad cholesterol’ (LDL) levels by as much as 35%. Unknown, however, was how effective this diet would be in a real-world situation or how advantageous it would be compared to a standard diet low in saturated fat.

Low fat versus heart-healthy foods
To find out, researchers in Canada conducted a study on participants with known high cholesterol. The two groups were assigned to eating either a reduced saturated fat diet, or a diet rich in foods that the Food and Drug Administration has recognised as being able to carry a heart-healthy claim for their ability to lower serum cholesterol levels. These are plants rich in ‘phytosterols’ or natural plant fats, structurally similar to cholesterol, or sticky fibres like oats, barley and psyllium.

After 6 months, foods with recognised cholesterol-lowering properties resulted in a significantly greater LDL-cholesterol reduction compared to the low-saturated fat diet, and almost equalled the reduction in cholesterol levels that were observed in some of the earliest trials on statins, prescription drugs which lower cholesterol.

Heart-healthy foods
Plant- or phytosterols are present in all vegetable food sources, especially oils and nuts, as well as in minute amounts in food products from animal or fish origin. Although phytosterols and cholesterol have similar chemical structures, phytosterols are poorly absorbed, which explains why the levels of phytosterols found in plant-eating fish and animals are naturally low.

By competing with cholesterol for intestinal absorption, phytosterols naturally reduces the intake of cholesterol absorption, leading to decreased blood LDL-cholesterol levels and thereby lowering cardiovascular disease risk.

However, results from recent research have now recognised numerous other biological roles for plant sterols and stanols, including the protective effects and mechanisms of action of phytosterols on certain forms of cancer. Phytosterols seem to act through multiple mechanisms of action, including inhibition of carcinogen production, cancer-cell growth and through the promotion of ‘apoptosis’ or natural cell death of cancerous cells. Moreover, the consumption of phytosterols by healthy humans at level of up to 2 g per day does not cause any major health risks.

Phytosterol supplements
RyChol, a natural product developed to help combat high blood cholesterol levels and help you to reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease, contains a blend of various plant-derived (phytochemical) ingredients that have each been recognised to help lower blood cholesterol levels in a unique and individual manner. This includes a rich source of phytosterols. Its multi-modal pharmaceutical action is through the selective blocking of various biochemical pathways that are involved in saturated fat digestion, cholesterol absorption as well as cholesterol excretion. Read more about RyChol here or download your free copy ou our Cholesterol-lowering guidelines here.

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References

  1. Jenkins DJ, Jones PJ, Lamarche B, et al. Effect of a dietary portfolio of cholesterol-lowering foods given at two levels of intensity of dietary advice on serum lipids in hyperlipidemia. JAMA 2011; 306:831-839.
  2. Katan MB, Grundy SM, Jones P, Law M, Miettinen T, Paoletti R. Efficacy and safety of plant stanols and sterols in the management of blood cholesterol levels. Mayo Clin Proc. 2003 Aug;78(8):965-78.
  3. Nguyen TT. The cholesterol-lowering action of plant stanol esters. J Nutr. 1999 Dec;129(12):2109-12.
  4. Woyengo TA. Anticancer effects of phytosterols. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2009 Jul;63(7):813-20.