Portfolio Diet Cuts LDL by 35%

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The two DASH trials clearly demonstrated that blood pressure was more effectively lowered by a diet that combined foods high in potassium (fruits and vegetables), calcium (lowfat and nonfat dairy) and magnesium (whole grains beans and nuts) with low salt and saturated fat intake. Now the results of a new study using a combination diet were presented at an American Heart Association meeting in March.1 This new study found combining a vegetarian diet that was very low in saturated fat and cholesterol with a relatively high intake of soy protein (45 grams a day) and high soluble fiber could reduce LDL levels in 25 volunteers by an average of 35% in one month. Subjects averaged about 16 grams of soluble fiber mostly from foods such as oats, barley, beans and high-soluble-fiber vegetables like eggplant and okra. Subjects consumed psyllium three times a day along with an ounce of almonds and two tablespoons of margarines with sterols.

When the subjects in this study followed a more moderate lowfat diet, their LDL levels only fell by an average of 12%. Earlier research studies have shown:

• Soluble fiber cuts LDL levels by about 1% for every 2 grams consumed daily.
• Consuming soy protein in place of animal proteins modestly lowers LDL levels.
• The addition of 2 grams a day of plant sterols or stanols from margarines such as Benecol® and Take Control® have also been shown to lower LDL levels by 5 to 10%.
• Eating a more-vegetarian diet low in cholesterol and saturated fat has been shown to cut LDL levels by 20 to 40% in most people.

Bottom Line: The DASH and Portfolio diets both demonstrate that the most effective dietary approach to treating high cholesterol levels, hypertension and other heart disease risk factors is a diet that is much lower in saturated fat, salt and cholesterol than the typical modern diet and much higher in minimally processed plant foods including whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables and nuts.

By James Kenney, PhD, RD, FACN.

1. Miami Herald. March 7, 2003

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