Scientists from August Pi i Sunyer Biomedical Research Institute found that eating heart-healthy foods may improve ‘good cholesterol’ function in the body.
The research is published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research and was conducted by Álvaro Hernáez et al.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good” cholesterol, absorbs cholesterol and carries it back to the liver. The liver then flushes it from the body.
High levels of HDL cholesterol can lower the risk for heart disease and stroke.
In the study, researchers aimed to examine whether eating more heart-healthy foods, such as virgin olive oil, nuts, fruits/vegetables, legumes, whole grains, fish, and wine are linked to improvements in HDL functions in people with high heart disease risks.
They tested 296 people with high risks of heart disease. These people ate heart-healthy foods for one year. The team tested the HDL levels before and after the study.
They found that increases in virgin olive oil and whole grain consumption are linked to increments in cholesterol efflux capacity.
Cholesterol efflux capacity (CEC) measures the ability of a person’s HDL to promote cholesterol efflux from cholesterol donor cells such as macrophages. It is a predictor of heart disease risk.
The team also found increases in nut and legume intake are linked to increments in paraoxonase-1 activity.
Paraoxonase is an enzyme-linked to HDL. It has a protective effect against oxidative damage and can modulate the HDL function.
Eating more legumes is also related to decreases in cholesteryl ester transfer protein (CETP) activity.
Previous research found that lower CETP levels promote HDL formation.
Since higher HDL levels are linked to a lower risk of atherosclerosis, the activity of CETP is thought to promote the development of the disease by reducing HDL levels.
The team also found eating more fish is linked to increases in paraoxonase-1 activity and declines in CETP activity, which improved HDL functions.
Based on the findings, the team concluded that increases in the consumption of virgin olive oil, nuts, legumes, whole grains, and fish (achievable through a regular diet) may improve HDL functions in people with high risks of heart disease.
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