High cholesterol: Nutritionist reveals top prevention tips
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According to the charity Heart UK, one of the best foods to eat to keep cholesterol levels low are oats and barley – they fall under the category of “cholesterol-busting” foods.
The reason for this is because these items contain high levels of a fibre known as beta-glucan. Fibre is key to maintaining cholesterol levels as this helps to absorb the cholesterol into the bloodstream.
On the ideal way to consume oats and barley, Heart UK says: “Eating 3g of beta-glucan a day as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle can help to lower cholesterol. “When you eat beta glucan, it forms a gel which binds to cholesterol-rich bile acids in the intestines.
“This helps limit the amount of cholesterol that is absorbed from the gut into your blood. Your liver then has to take more cholesterol out of your blood to make more bile, which lowers your blood cholesterol.”
Overall, they recommend at least three servings of oat-based products a day including:
• A bowl of porridge
• A bowl of oat-based breakfast cereal flakes
• 250ml of oat drink containing beta-glucans
• One breakfast cereal oat type ‘biscuit’
• One to two tablespoons of oat bran
• Three oatcakes
• 30 grams of oats added to recipes
• 75 grams of cooked pearl barley.
Heart UK adds: “Many products now contain oats, which makes it easier to get your two to four servings. Foods which have a claim on the label saying they lower cholesterol will contain 1g or more of beta glucan.”
While it is one thing for a charity to say oats can help, it is another for scientists and research to say it; in this regard one study gave oats their seal of approval.
The study in question was conducted in 2018 on the health benefits of consuming oats and published in the journal Food and Function.
The authors wrote: “As for evidence specific to oats, animal studies support the concept of synergistic action of its components on lipemia, particularly macronutrients and β-glucan.
“Guo et al. found that five oat varieties, containing similar amounts of β-glucan and phytosterols but varying in their protein and lipid content, elicited a decrease in plasma cholesterol to different extents.
“The oat variety with the highest proteins and lipids content produced the greatest cholesterol reduction.”
As a result, there is scientific research to back up the theory that oats and barley can help reduce levels of cholesterol, however, this depends greatly on the composition of the oats when they are consumed.
Alongside oats and barley, there are other foodstuffs which can help to lower cholesterol. However, should these fail, statins are often prescribed; these are medications which lower cholesterol by reducing how much of it is produced in the liver.
Statins are a medicine of great debate as they can cause a range of side effects and the health community is divided over their efficacy.
A recent study published earlier this month has added to that discourse and put forward a new position on the use of them in healthy people.
The research, compiled by the University of South Florida, says statins should not be given to healthy people even if they have high levels of both good and bad cholesterol.
Writing in the Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Obesity journal, researchers said that “bad” cholesterol had a “very weak association” with heart disease and stroke.
Researcher David Diamond said of the research: “People who are not overweight, have low blood sugar, exercise and are on a low-carb diet typically have optimal triglycerides and HDL, and sometimes they have high LDL.
“Our findings show that the people who have this healthy combination of diet and lifestyle, as well as high LDL, showed no benefit from taking a statin.”
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