New Study Shows Dietary 'Portfolio' Eating Plan Can Reduce Cholesterol as Much as Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs

Almonds, Soy, Plant Sterols and Viscous Fibers Work in Combination

MODESTO, Calif., Dec. 2 /PRNewswire/ -- A new study released today finds that diets incorporating a combination of recognized heart-healthy foods, including a snack of almonds, may be as effective as the starting dose of first-line drugs such as statins in managing cholesterol.

The study, published in the December issue of Metabolism, is the first to examine the combined effect of foods with cholesterol reduction health claims -- plant sterols, soy proteins, and viscous fibers -- as well as almonds, also recognized for cholesterol reducing properties. It is also the first study to observe a drug-like effect in reducing in LDL, or "bad" cholesterol levels through a dietary approach. This portfolio eating plan reduced LDL cholesterol by 29 percent and the ratio of LDL cholesterol to HDL cholesterol by 26 percent.

The plan provided 2 grams of plant sterols (from enriched margarine) per 2,000 calories; 15 grams of viscous fiber (such as oats, barley, eggplant and okra) per 2,000 calories; 35 grams of soy protein (such as tofu, soy milk and soy meat alternatives); and 30 grams of almonds to subjects with high blood cholesterol. Subjects were studied for one month and showed 25 to 30 percent reductions in LDL-cholesterol. The working hypothesis of the portfolio eating plan is that combining foods with cholesterol-lowering properties into one diet will work in synergy, resulting in greater reductions in "bad" cholesterol.

"We are very encouraged to see that a combination, or portfolio, of heart- healthy, plant-based foods has such a positive effect on managing cholesterol, and that the effect is equal to that of early drug therapy," said the leader of the study, Dr. David Jenkins of the Clinical Nutrition and Risk Factor Modification Center, St. Michael's Hospital and the Department of Nutritional Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto. "While some of the reduction in cholesterol can be attributed to the reduction in saturated fat and dietary cholesterol, the results illustrate the benefits of incorporating plant-based foods like almonds and soy in the diet."

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 19 percent of Americans ages 20 to 74 have high serum cholesterol levels.

Nutrient-dense almonds are one of the four foods upon which the portfolio eating plan is based, and were incorporated as twice-a-day snacks. A leading food source of vitamin E, and with dietary fiber and arginine-rich protein, almonds are a natural ingredient to join this list. In addition, almonds are packed with nutrients -- magnesium, calcium, potassium, and more -- that make them a smart snacking choice in general.

Another study, recently published in the American Heart Association's journal Circulation,* found that alone a handful of almonds (one ounce or about 24 almonds) lowered LDL cholesterol by 4.4 percent from the baseline. Even greater reduction in LDL cholesterol levels (9.4 percent) was seen in subjects who ate two handfuls of almonds per day.

For more information about almonds, including recipes and healthful eating tips, visit .

* David J.A. Jenkins, Cyril W.C. Kendall, Augustine Marchie, Tina L.
Parker, Philip W. Connelly, Wei Qian, James S. Haight, Dorothea
Faulkner, Edward Vidgen, Karen G. Lapsley, and Gene A. Spiller. "Dose
Response of Almonds on Coronary Heart Disease Risk Factors: Blood
Lipids, Oxidized Low-Density Lipoproteins, Lipoprotein(a), Homocysteine,
and Pulmonary Nitric Oxide: A Randomized, Controlled, Crossover Trial.
Circulation 2002 106: 1327-1332.

Published: Metabolism, December 2002

Research Organization: University of Toronto

Study Title: A Dietary Portfolio Approach to Cholesterol Reduction:
Combined Effects of Plant Sterols, Vegetable Proteins, and Viscous
Fibers in Hypercholesterolemia

Authors: David J.A. Jenkins, Cyril W.C. Kendall, Dorothea Faulkner,
Edward Vidgen, Elke A. Trautwein, Tina L. Parker, Augustine Marchie,
George Koumbridis, Karen G. Lapsley, Robert G. Josse, Lawrence A.
Leiter, and Philip W. Connelly

Objective: To examine the combined effect of foods already recognized
for their cholesterol-reducing effect.

Subjects: 13 men and women

Study Description: Subjects were monitored on their own low-saturated
fat therapeutic diets for one week prior to the start of the study, and
for a further two weeks after the study upon return to their low-
saturated fat therapeutic diets. During the middle four weeks, subjects
consumed the portfolio combination with all foods provided with the
exception of fresh fruit and most vegetables.

RESULTS: Diets incorporating a combination of recognized heart-healthy
foods, including almonds, may be as effective as the starting dose of
older first-line drugs in managing cholesterol.

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