Why Cholesterol-Reducing Diets Sometimes Fail

If you have been diagnosed with high cholesterol, your doctor has probably recommended that you make dietary changes, such as reducing the amount of fat and cholesterol you eat. The problem is that this approach doesn’t seem to work for everyone. For some people, cholesterol levels remain high despite their best efforts on a cholesterol-lowering regime. When diet alone doesn’t work, cholesterol-lowering drugs are usually the next step.

But there may be another solution. A recent study has shed some light on why some people respond to a cholesterol-lowering diet and some do not. Researchers at Penn State discovered that people with high levels of inflammation are less likely to be successful with a cholesterol-lowering diet.

Systemic inflammation is a low-grade kind of inflammation that can exist without causing any symptoms. However, elevated levels of inflammatory chemicals in your blood can increase your risk of heart disease as well as Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, cancer, and other conditions.

The presence of systemic inflammation can be detected with a test that measures the amount of c-reactive protein, or CRP in the blood. The Penn State investigators found that people with high CRP levels were less likely to succeed in lowering their cholesterol levels by following a low-fat diet. For these people, taking measures to reduce inflammation in combination with a cholesterol-lowering diet may be more effective–and allow them to avoid drug therapy.

Certain foods and nutrients help reduce inflammation in the body, while others tend to promote it. If inflammation is a concern:

1. Choose lean cuts of mean and low fat dairy products to reduce your intake of saturated fats.

2. Avoid fried foods and foods made with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils to minimize your intake of trans fats.

3. Use olive oil and canola oil as your main sources of dietary fats.

4. Limit your intake of sugary foods, such as soda, fruit juices, baked goods, and sweets.

5. Eat more fresh vegetables

6. Add fish oil supplements (1,000 to 3,000 mg per day) to your diet.

7. Eat more garlic, ginger, hot chili peppers, and curry–all of which are naturally anti-inflammatory.

For more information: The Inflammation Free Diet

Sources: Hilpert KF, Kris-Etherton PM, West SG. Lipid response to a low-fat diet with or without soy is modified by C-reactive protein status in moderately hypercholesterolemic adults. Journal of Nutrition, vol. 135, no. 5 (May 2005) pp.:1075-9. Link to journal

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