High cholesterol: Nutritionist reveals top prevention tips
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High cholesterol levels spell serious trouble if not addressed. The waxy substance can cling on to your artery walls – a process that can hike your risk of a heart attack over time. There is no one -size-fits-all approach to lowering high cholesterol levels but research suggests cutting back on a single ingredient can cause a marked reduction within days.
A study published in the journal Obesity found cutting back on sugar slashed levels of blood cholesterol within nine days.
The study – led by Doctor Robert Lustig at the University of California – was based on 27 Latino and 16 African American obese children aged between eight to 18 years.
In addition to obesity, the participants had at least one other health issue such as high cholesterol.
The children chosen for the study regularly consumed high volumes of sugar (over 15 percent of dietary intake).
The researchers wanted to find out whether reducing sugar intake can improve cardiovascular health in children.
During the nine-day study, sugar content of all participants’ diets was reduced from 28 percent to 10 percent.
They were given starchy foods instead, such as bagels, cereal and pasta, so that they consumed the same amount of calories as they had done previously – the intention was to keep their weights the same.
They were still allowed unhealthy foods like crisps and supermarket pizza.
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What did the study reveal?
The authors found that levels of blood cholesterol decreased by 46 percent over the course of nine days.
What’s more, diastolic blood pressure (the lowest measure of pressure which occurs when your heart is relaxing between beats) decreased by five mmHg.
They also found a marked improvement in glucose tolerance – a key marker of diabetes.
At the time of the study, Doctor Lustig and his fellow authors suggested their findings supported a new and exciting direction of research around the negative effects of sugar.
The authors said: “Concerns surrounding the role of sugar consumption in chronic disease have previously focused on its caloric equivalence and its role in fomenting increases in weight.
“This study argues that the health detriments of sugar are independent of its caloric value or effects on weight.”
However, there are some limitations to the study. During the study it was not possible to keep the children’s weights exactly the same, and some children did lose weight.
Also, the participant’s normal calorie intake was based on their own estimation, which is usually under-estimated, so some of the results seen could have been the results of calorie reduction.
The absence of a control group (a group studied in the same way but who did not make the changes that were being tested) is also a limitation.
This is a feature of the best-designed studies, which makes it easier to be sure that the change being looked at is what is causing the effect.
Instead, the researchers only compared the children with how they had been previously.
What’s more, the study was only based on a small and very specific group – Latino and African-American children who were obese and had another health issue.
So it’s unclear whether these findings would apply to the general population. Studying a larger group would also increase the reliability of the findings.
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