High cholesterol: Nutritionist reveals top prevention tips
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Saturated fat has long been vilified as the driving force behind high cholesterol rates. But recent studies suggest the collection of 100 trillion or so bacteria that make up the microbiome may yield equal influence. One gut-friendly superfood has now come to the fore for its ability to slash cholesterol levels in just four weeks. The findings may also help avert strokes and heart attacks.
The study, led by nutritionist and Zhoaping Li, nutritionist and professor of medicine at the University of California, was published in the journal Nutrients.
Professor Li noted: “We found the grapes have a beneficial effect on gut bacteria, which is great news since a healthy gut is critical to good health.
“This study depends on our knowledge and expands the range of health benefits for grapes, even as the study reinforces the heart health benefits of grapes with lowered cholesterol.”
Polyphenols – micronutrients that occur naturally in plants – are renowned for their anti-inflammatory qualities.
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To study their effects, researchers looked specifically at the microbial of 19 healthy subjects who consumed a low-polyphenol and low-fibre diet during a period of four weeks.
Participants were thereafter given another 46 grams of powdered grape each day for a further four weeks, continuing on the same diet.
Using stool and urine samples, researchers were later able to assess the microbial diversity in the participants’ guts.
They discovered an increase in Akkermansia – a bacteria renowned for its beneficial effect on glucose and lipid metabolism – as well as on the integrity of the intestinal lining.
What’s more, the team noted a marked decrease in blood cholesterol, with levels of total cholesterol falling by 6.1 percent and LDL cholesterol by 5.9 percent.
Levels of bile acids, which play a role in cholesterol metabolism, fell by 40.9 percent.
The findings of the study, despite its small size, are particularly useful in the prevention of cardiovascular disease.
This is because the condition, which claims around 17 million people each year, is heavily influenced by factors such as high cholesterol and hypertension.
Aside from its scale, another limitation of the study is that the researchers did not repeat their findings on other types and fruit and vegetables.
So it remains unclear how different fruits compare and contrast.
Previous research, however, has informed public knowledge of cholesterol-lowering diets.
The Portfolio diet, which comprises four different foods, is excellent for lowering bad cholesterol levels because it comprises a group of foods that interact with lipids in their own individual way.
For instance, oats prevent the reabsorption of cholesterol in the gut, while soy may inhibit cholesterol synthesis in the liver.
Plant sterols, on the other hand, block cholesterol by racing against it for absorption, while almonds contain naturally occurring plant sterols.
Legumes, vegetable oils, nuts, cereals and seeds are good sources of plant sterols.
Soluble fibres such as pectin, which are found in grapes, have been shown to lower cholesterol by up to 10 percent in previous research.
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