Lowering cholesterol without taking drugs

January 2, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
One of four people have high cholesterol. Many are given powerful drugs to help treat it. Now, there is a new way to lower cholesterol without taking a drug.

Cholesterol-lowering pills called statins are the best-selling drugs in the world.

"Heart attack is obviously the big danger that everybody is worried about," says David Jenkins, M.D., Ph.D, clinical nutritionist.

High cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease, but Dr. David Jenkins says statins aren't the final word.

"Our research tells us that there is still life in diet, yet and you don't have to give up and go straight to drugs."

It's known some foods do lower cholesterol, but alone, they only lower it by about five-percent. Dr. Jenkins wondered if a diet that combined powerful cholesterol-lowering foods would magnify their effect.

"Stack them up in terms of what we would call a sort of financial portfolio, but this is a dietary portfolio," says Jenkins.

His study shows a combo diet that includes soy proteins, nuts, plant sterols found in canola oil and enriched margarine, and fiber-rich foods like oats and barley actually lowered cholesterol by more than 20 percent.

John Flys, a high cholesterol patient, was worried when he learned he had high cholesterol.

"Taking the medication was what bothered me more than anything else," says Flys.

John has never taken any drugs -- not even aspirin -- so he joined Dr. Jenkins' diet study. It paid off.

"You end up with a lot of energy. I've lost a lot of weight. I feel a lot better."

In fact, John has lost thirty pounds and his cholesterol is back to normal -- no drugs needed.

The combo diet lowered bad cholesterol, but didn't significantly lower patients' good cholesterol levels. If you want to focus on raising those good cholesterol levels, experts say try exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and consuming the good monounsaturated fats like olive oil will help.