High cholesterol: Nutritionist reveals top prevention tips
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High cholesterol refers to the presence of fatty substances in the blood, which clog arteries and hike the risk of serious health complications including stroke and heart attack. Diet, particularly the fats and carbohydrates, largely affect cholesterol. However, a new study has found that adding pecans to your diet could offer promising results.
The study included 52 adults between 30 and 75 who were at higher risk for cardiovascular disease.
The cohort was divided into three separate groups, the first of which consumed 68 grams of pecans a day, while a second group substituted pecans for a similar amount of calories from their habitual diet. A third control group did not eat pecans.
The researchers drew blood from participants after eight weeks to determine changes in blood lipids.
Findings of the study showed improvements in blood lipid profiles among participants who ate pecans.
Jamie Cooper, professor in the FACS departments of nutritional sciences and one of the study’s authors, said: “This dietary intervention, when put in the context of different intervention studies, was extremely successful.
“We had some people who actually went from having high cholesterol at the start of the study to no longer being in that category after the intervention.
“The additions of pecans to the diet not only produced a greater and more consistent reduction in total cholesterol and LDL compared to many other lifestyle interventions, but may also be a more sustainable approach for long-term health.
“Whether people added them or substituted other foods in the diet for them, we still saw improvements and pretty similar responses in total cholesterol and LDL in particular.”
Researchers believe the drop in cholesterol could be down to the bioactive properties of pecans.
Cooper added: “Some research shows that even a one percent reduction in LDL is associated with a small reduction or coronary artery disease risk, so these reductions are definitely clinically meaningful.”
The NHS as a general guide says that total cholesterol should be 5mmol/L or less, however in the UK, three out of five adults have total cholesterol levels of 5mmol/L or above.
In fact, the average cholesterol level in the UK is at 5.6mmol/L, which can be a risk factor in the development of coronary heart disease.
As LDL or “bad cholesterol” builds up on the walls of the arteries, it triggers the release of inflammatory substances in the blood.
The NHS says: “Most people in the UK eat too much saturated fat. Eating foods that contain unsaturated fat instead of saturated fat can actually help reduce cholesterol levels.
According to the health body, foods high in saturated fat include:
Sausages and fatty cuts of meat
Butter and lard
Cakes and biscuits
Foods containing coconut or palm oil
Furthermore, high cholesterol is notoriously difficult to recognise, as it is asymptomatic.
However, as fatty deposits reduce blood flow through the arteries, this can cause complications including:
Chest pain: When the arteries become clogged, you might have chest pain and other symptom of coronary heart disease
Heart attack: If plaque tear or ruptures, a blood clot can form and block the flow of blood, causing a heart attack.
Stroke: Similar to a heart attack, a stroke occurs when a blood flow is blocked.
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