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Coronary Heart Disease

2004 Edition

New Research:
New Diet Similar to Drugs for Cholesterol Lowering

A vegetarian diet high in sterols, soy, fiber, and almonds can lower LDL cholesterol as much as treatment with a low-dose statin medication, according to a new study.

Forty-six participants, average age 59, with high LDL cholesterol levels underwent one of three treatments for four weeks: 1) a vegetarian control diet emphasizing whole grains and low-fat dairy products; 2) the vegetarian diet plus 20 mg of lovastatin (Mevacor) daily; or 3) an investigational vegetarian diet emphasizing sterols, soy protein, soluble fiber, and almonds.

LDL cholesterol levels decreased significantly more in the investigational-diet and lovastatin groups (29% and 31%, respectively) than in the control group (8%). (Higher doses or more potent statins can lower LDL cholesterol by 50%.) Similarly, levels of C-reactive protein, a risk factor for CHD, decreased significantly less in the control group (10%) than in the investigational-diet and lovastatin groups (28% and 33%, respectively).

Cholesterol guidelines recommend consuming 25 g of soluble fiber each day and possibly including 2 g of plant sterols daily. Levels of intake for soy and nuts have not been established, but the American Heart Association recognizes that these foods have potential heart benefits.

Journal of the American Medical Association
Volume 290, pages 502 and 531
July 23/30, 2003



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