Bran, soy help cut cholesterol
August 23rd, 2011
05:13 PM ET

Bran, soy help cut cholesterol

Editor's note: Tune in as Dr. Sanjay Gupta explores the signs, tests and lifestyle changes that could make cardiac problems a thing of the past on "The Last Heart Attack," Saturday, August 27, 8 and 11 p.m. ET on CNN.

Researchers in Canada have shown that a special cholesterol-lowering diet works well – even with only two nutritional counseling sessions over six months.

Making dietary changes like eating oat bran for breakfast, drinking soy milk instead of dairy, soy burgers in place of hamburgers, and fruit and nuts instead of a full lunch prompted a double-digit drop in both total cholesterol and LDL or "bad" cholesterol.

The study was published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Lead author Dr. David Jenkins, Canada research chair in nutrition and metabolism at the University of Toronto and St. Michael's Hospital, had previously shown the effectiveness of a cholesterol-lowering diet when all the meals were provided to participants.

"The question one had to address was how does this play out with people in the real world," Jenkins said in a telephone interview.

To put the diet to the real-world test, participants received a one-hour counseling session with a dietitian and an illustrated study booklet at the outset and, later, received a 30-40 minute follow up session.

"It was just advice," Jenkins said. Even so, the results were dramatic.

Total cholesterol dropped from 256 to 230, while the LDL or "bad" cholesterol decreased from 173 to 148, according to the study.

Jenkins said participants achieved  these results even though compliance to the whole grain, vegetarian diet was only about 40%.

In addition to the soy protein, nuts and whole grains, participants in the diet were encouraged to eat peas, beans and lentils.

A control group advised to eat a vegetarian, low-saturated diet but not with the cholesterol-lowering foods a saw a slight dip in total cholesterol, from 249 to 246, and in LDL, from 167 to 161.

Both groups lost  about four pounds over the six months.

The 351 participants in the study suffered from high cholesterol but were not on a cholesterol-lowering statin medication. The study was conducted from June 2007 to February 2009 at academic centers in Quebec City, Toronto, Winnipeg, and Vancouver.

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soundoff (143 Responses)
  1. Bob

    Dr. Dean Ornish has done some very good research around a holistic approach (e.g. regulating diet based on a vegan approach, stress reduction, exercise) in reducing the risk of heart disease. He has several books on out the topic.

    August 25, 2011 at 10:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. deb

    I dropped my total cholesterol from 238 to 178 by doing 2 simple things, I stopped getting my morning fast food biscuit and replaced it with oat cereal. It's not that complicated

    August 25, 2011 at 11:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • D

      Keep on it- I dropped mine, I kept at the same good diet and then it went back UP again. It only went down as I continued losing weight. Once I started to maintain my (very skinny) weight, it went back up again. I had no more weight to lose.

      August 25, 2011 at 15:30 | Report abuse |
  3. ThisArticleSucks

    If anyone wants to REALLY get healthy and lower cholesterol... they'll read Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. Grass-fed meat will lower your cholesterol.. eating factory farmed junk will not. Soy is not a health food. It's cheap to produce and easy to sell to dumbies.

    August 25, 2011 at 14:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Naomi

    Miso soup is very good for you, but don't take it too salty.

    August 26, 2011 at 00:25 | Report abuse | Reply
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  8. Count Chocula

    I had very high cholesterol after one blood test. I went on a meat-free, diary-free, egg yolk-free diet for ten days. My bad cholesterol dropped by 30 points. It works.

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    My LDL cholesterol was 175. My wanted me to take a Lipitor, but I could not tolerate the muscle aches. I also know that I was NOT going to make drastic changes in my diet, like going completely to a plant based approach or eliminating meat.

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    September 30, 2012 at 09:14 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.