High cholesterol levels in the blood heighten the risk of heart disease and stroke, leading causes of death worldwide.
Diet significantly influences cholesterol levels, with several diets claiming to lower cholesterol. We examine some popular cholesterol-lowering diets and the evidence behind them in this review.
The Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet is a plant-based dietary pattern emphasizing whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, with the inclusion of fish and seafood and limited amounts of dairy and red meat.
This diet is high in healthy fats, such as olive oil and nuts, and low in saturated and trans fats. The Mediterranean diet has been shown to reduce heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular problems.
A meta-analysis of 50 randomized controlled trials found that the Mediterranean diet effectively reduced LDL cholesterol levels by an average of 0.16 mmol/L.
The DASH Diet
The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy products, with a low intake of saturated and trans fats.
It stresses foods rich in potassium, magnesium, and calcium, known to help lower blood pressure. The DASH diet has been proven to lower blood pressure and reduce heart disease risk.
A systematic review and meta-analysis of 27 randomized controlled trials discovered that the DASH diet reduced LDL cholesterol levels by an average of 0.08 mmol/L.
A plant-based diet focuses on whole plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, limiting or excluding animal products.
Plant-based diets are generally low in saturated and trans fats and high in fiber, antioxidants, and other nutrients beneficial for heart health.
Studies have shown that plant-based diets can decrease the risk of heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular problems.
A meta-analysis of 30 randomized controlled trials found that a vegetarian diet effectively reduced LDL cholesterol levels by an average of 0.20 mmol/L.
A low-carb diet restricts carbohydrates like bread, pasta, and sugary foods, emphasizing protein and healthy fats, such as meat, fish, nuts, and seeds.
Low-carb diets have been shown to aid in weight loss, which can decrease heart disease risk, and may also improve blood sugar control and cholesterol levels.
However, some low-carb diets may be high in saturated and trans fats, potentially harmful to heart health.
A systematic review and meta-analysis of 17 randomized controlled trials found that low-carb diets effectively reduced LDL cholesterol levels by an average of 0.12 mmol/L.
In conclusion, evidence suggests that a plant-based diet, such as the Mediterranean diet or a vegetarian diet, is the most effective dietary pattern for lowering cholesterol levels.
The DASH diet and low-carb diets can also effectively reduce LDL cholesterol levels, but it’s crucial to choose healthy protein and fat sources and limit saturated and trans fats.
Diet is just one factor that influences cholesterol levels, so it’s important to consult a healthcare provider to determine the best dietary pattern for individual needs and preferences.
Other lifestyle factors, like regular physical activity, avoidance of tobacco products, and stress management, can also support heart health and lower blood cholesterol.
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