Although physicians have touted the benefits of low-fat dietsfor lowering high cholesterol, a new study stressed the importanceof replacing fatty foods with nutritious items. The study,reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine (May 3, 2005), compareda plant-based (ie, vegetarian-style) diet and a diet packedwith the convenience foods usually seen in the average Americandiet.
The study involved 120 adults aged 30 to 55 years with mildlyelevated low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. For thestudy, the participants were randomly assigned to follow 2 dietslow in fat—30% of daily calories—and saturated fat—limited to10% of calories. The diets also had the same amounts of cholesterol,protein, and carbohydrates.
The major difference in the diets was food selection. One dietwas comprised of large daily doses of whole grains, vegetables,soy protein, fruits, beans, and nuts. Modest amounts of butter,eggs, and cheese provided the saturated fat. The second diet,modeled after what an individual may eat when cutting fat,included skinless chicken, potatoes, low-fat cheese, andreduced-fat snack foods.
After 4 weeks, the researchers found that the 59 participantson the vegetarian-style diet experienced an 18-mg/dL drop intheir total cholesterol and a 14-mg/dL drop in their LDL cholesterol.The 61 participants on the comparison diet observed a 9-mg/dL drop in total cholesterol and a 7-mg/dL reduction in LDLlevels.