Good Dietary Fat May Reduce Cholesterol

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Researchers may have identified a way to lower blood cholesterol, according to the results of a study reported in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association (July 2005). They found that a diet rich in NuSun—a new type of sunflower oil—beat olive oil when it came to reducing levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL; "bad") cholesterol in 31 participants. The sunflower oil had a relatively high concentration of both polyunsaturated fatty acids and monounsaturated fats.

For the study, the participants followed each of three 4-week diets: one heavy in foods with sunflower oil, another rich in olive oil, and one typical of the "American" diet. The oil-based diets had equal amounts of saturated fat, but the sunflower diet had a greater balance between mono-and polyunsaturated fats. The American diet contained more saturated and total fat, compared with the other 2 diets.

The results of the study showed a 6% drop in LDL levels among participants following the sunflower-oil diet, compared with their time on the American diet. The diet rich in olive oil demonstrated no major effect on LDL levels, however. "Within the context of a moderate-fat diet, it is becoming clear that a mixture of unsaturated fatty acids provides the greatest health benefits," wrote the investigators.