Lifestyle modification is an important part of treating high cholesterol. In fact, losing weight and increasing exercise alone can help bring your cholesterol numbers back into a healthy range. When it comes to high triglycerides, modifying your diet is beneficial if it helps you lose weight.
Diet is one of several factors that affect cholesterol levels. Other factors include heredity, age, sex, physical inactivity, and being overweight. The main dietary components that impact cholesterol levels are fat, cholesterol, and fiber. Consider the following guidelines for modifying your diet:
- Eat a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet.
- A vegetarian diet or vegan diet may be helpful in lowering your LDL ("bad") cholesterol.
- Check out the Cholesterol-Lowering Diet article for more details on dietary guidelines for improving cholesterol profile.
- Note: A low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet might actually increase triglycerides. If you have high triglycerides, you might do better on a low-carbohydrate diet. Talk to your doctor about the right kind of diet for you.
- Eat more high-fiber foods. See the article on Fiber for more information and practical tips.
- Avoid processed and refined sugars and starches (white bread, white potatoes, white rice and simple sugars, etc.)
- Drink alcohol in moderation. This means two drinks per day for men, and one drink per day for women.
The following foods and supplements are often recommended for reducing cholesterol and/or lowering high triglycerides, and they have been studied for this purpose:
- Fish oil
- Olive oil
- Red yeast rice
- Rice bran oil
- Stanols and sterols
- Vitamin B3 (niacin)
The following foods and supplements are also sometimes recommended for lipid disorders:
- Blue-green algae
- Carnitine (L-carnitine)
- Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)
- Garlic (including raw garlic, stabilized garlic powder, and aged garlic)
- Grape polyphenols
- HMB (beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate)
- Ipomoea batatus (sweet potato)
- Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs)
- Nopal cactus
- Royal jelly
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin B5 (pantethine)
- Lipid Disorders and Fish Oil
- Lipid Disorders and Vitamin B3
- Lipid Disorders and Fiber
- Lipid Disorders and Soy
- Lipid Disorders and Calcium
- Lipid Disorders and Nuts
- Lipid Disorders and Olive Oil
- Lipid Disorders and Acidophilus and Other Probiotics
- Lipid Disorders and Chocolate
- Lipid Disorders and Rice Bran Oil
- Lipid Disorders and Cholesterol-Lowering Diet
Effect of Essential Fatty Acids on Lipid Disorders
Fish oil has a number of effects on cardiovascular processes and conditions, including reducing triglycerides and increasing HDL ("good") cholesterol.
Read more about Lipid Disorders and Fish Oil.
Effect of Vitamin B3 on Lipid Disorders
Niacin can have a number of favorable effects on serum (blood) lipids--it reduces bad cholesterol, increases good cholesterol, and reduces triglycerides. It probably reduces levels of bad cholesterol...
Read more about Lipid Disorders and Vitamin B3.
Effect of Fiber on Lipid Disorders
Experts believe that soluble fiber reduces cholesterol levels by increasing excretion of cholesterol from the digestive tract. This affects two forms of cholesterol: cholesterol from food, and, more...
Read more about Lipid Disorders and Fiber.
Effect of Soy on Lipid Disorders
Read more about Lipid Disorders and Soy.
Effect of Calcium on Lipid Disorders
It appears that calcium supplements help increase levels of "good" (HDL) cholesterol. This improves the ratio of HDL to LDL ("bad") cholesterol, which is beneficial.
Read more about Lipid Disorders and Calcium.
Effect of Nuts on Lipid Disorders
Nuts may have a number of properties that make them effective at lowering cholesterol and reducing the risk of heart disease. For one thing, many of them are rich in monounsaturated fats, which are...
Read more about Lipid Disorders and Nuts.
Effect of Olive Oil on Lipid Disorders
Olive oil, especially extra virgin olive oil, is a rich source of monounsaturated fats ("healthy fats") and antioxidants (polyphenols), both of which are believed to help improve lipid profile.
Read more about Lipid Disorders and Olive Oil.
Effect of Acidophilus and Other Probiotics on Lipid Disorders
Probiotics help populate the gut with "good bacteria." These bacteria play a role in the break-down of bile and the removal of cholesterol, ultimately helping reduce the amount of cholesterol in your...
Read more about Lipid Disorders and Acidophilus and Other Probiotics.
Effect of Chocolate on Lipid Disorders
Chocolate, especially dark chocolate, contains a number of active compounds that may explain its positive effect on cholesterol. Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants in the flavonol family,...
Read more about Lipid Disorders and Chocolate.
Effect of Rice Bran Oil on Lipid Disorders
Rice bran oil, like other vegetable oils, is low in saturated fat and appears to favorably change lipid profile as well as reduce heart disease risk in other ways, including being a substitute for...
Read more about Lipid Disorders and Rice Bran Oil.
Effect of Cholesterol-Lowering Diet on Lipid Disorders
Diet is one of several factors that affect cholesterol levels. (Other factors include heredity, age, sex, physical inactivity, and being overweight.) The main dietary components that impact...
Read more about Lipid Disorders and Cholesterol-Lowering Diet.
A Note About Dietary Recommendations
When the consequences of elevated cholesterol were first being researched, total cholesterol was the only measurement considered. Today, the overall lipid profile is taken into account. LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and triglycerides are the most common measurements related to cholesterol. Lipoprotein A and oxidized LDL cholesterol are drawing increasing attention as well.
This change in emphasis has thrown some long-standing recommendations into confusion. For example, reducing total fat intake generally decreases total cholesterol. On this basis, medical authorities long ago adopted a policy of recommending low-fat diets. This is the basis of most "heart-healthy" and "cholesterol-lowering" diets. However, when you take into account other lipid measurements, it is now clear that reducing fat intake is not the clear blessing it first appeared to be.
Low-fat diets improve total and LDL cholesterol levels, but worsen HDL and triglyceride levels. Conversely, low-carb, high-fat diets tend to raise levels of LDL and total cholesterol, but reduce triglycerides and raise HDL. Some researchers use these effects as “proof” that the low-fat diet is healthier,270 but, in fact, the current state of knowledge does not tell us whether the changes in lipids produced by low-fat diets are better or worse than the changes produced by low-carb diets. It is possible that a diet low in carbs and high in mono-unsaturated fats (eg, olive oil) offers the best of both worlds, but this has not yet been conclusively proven.271-276
What is clear is that losing weight is extremely important. If you are overweight and lose weight, your cholesterol profile is almost certain to improve.188
- Michael L, Dansinger, MD. One year effectiveness of the Atkins, Ornish, Weight Watchers, and Zone diets in decreasing body weight and heart disease risk. Paper presented at: American Heart Association 2003 Scientific Sessions; November 12, 2003.
- Tay J, Brinkworth GD, Noakes M, et al. Metabolic effects of weight loss on a very-low-carbohydrate diet compared with an isocaloric high-carbohydrate diet in abdominally obese subjects. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2008;51:59-67.
- Howard BV, Van Horn L, Hsia J, et al. Low-fat dietary pattern and risk of cardiovascular disease: the Women's Health Initiative Randomized Controlled Dietary Modification Trial. JAMA. 2006;295:655-666.
- Berglund L, Lefevre M, Ginsberg HN, et al. Comparison of monounsaturated fat with carbohydrates as a replacement for saturated fat in subjects with a high metabolic risk profile: studies in the fasting and postprandial states. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;86:1611-1620.
- Pelkman CL, Fishell VK, Maddox DH, et al. Effects of moderate-fat (from monounsaturated fat) and low-fat weight-loss diets on the serum lipid profile in overweight and obese men and women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004;79:204-212.
- Lichtenstein AH. Dietary fat and cardiovascular disease risk: quantity or quality? J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2003;12:109-114.
- Hu FB, Willett WC. Optimal diets for prevention of coronary heart disease. JAMA. 2002;288:2569-2578.
- Sacks FM, Katan M. Randomized clinical trials on the effects of dietary fat and carbohydrate on plasma lipoproteins and cardiovascular disease. Am J Med. 2002;113:13S-24S.
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