Tasty Modified Snacks Work to Lower Cholesterol: Study

January 28, 2022 – What if you could lower your cholesterol by eating foods you like?

A new study shows that when people were asked to eat “hedonically acceptable” snacks containing ingredients known to lower cholesterol, nearly all of them did.

In contrast, only about half of the people who were asked to make substantial changes to their diet to lower cholesterol followed the diet in a previous study.

Neither type of diet lowers “bad” cholesterol as much as statins, but the special ingredients in the tasty snacks “can lower LDL cholesterol quickly and meaningfully in adult patients who cannot or do not want to take statin drugs,” the study said.

The trial, published in TheJournal of Nutrition, was done by researchers from the Mayo Clinic, the University of Manitoba and the Richardson Center for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals in Canada.

The researchers recruited 59 people to participate in the study, but five of them dropped out. That left 18 men and 36 women, with an average age of 49, who were placed in treatment and control groups.

There were two treatment periods of 4 weeks each, separated by a “wash-out” period of the same length. During the treatment phases, the participants were told to eat a variety of ready-to-eat snacks twice a day as a substitute for something they were already eating. Other behavioral changes were discouraged.

The people in both groups were able to choose snacks from six products that were identically packaged and coded by Step One Foods of Minneapolis, which participated in the study. These foods include oatmeal, pancakes, cranberry bars, chocolate bars, smoothies and a granola-style offering.

The treatment group received modified versions of these snacks that contain ingredients that have been shown to improve heart health. The control products were comparable items from supermarkets and supermarkets. For example, standard store-bought granola was the control for the study granola, where the portion was adjusted to have the same number of calories.

Lower Cholesterol, Higher Compliance

LDL cholesterol was reduced on average by about 8.8% in those who received the modified snacks, and some participants had a reduction of 20% or more. Total cholesterol was reduced by an average of 5.1% with treatment foods, compared with control snacks. But HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, serum glucose, insulin and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein concentrations were not significantly different between the control groups.

The vegan portfolio diet, which also provides high concentrations of fiber and plants, has been shown to help lower LDL cholesterol by 17% when combined with a nationally approved cholesterol education program. That said, “because such a large portion of the diet has to be controlled, user compliance was poor,” the new study said.

Specifically, the percentage of people who adhered to the diet trial was less than 50%, says snack study co-author Stephen L. Kopecky, MD, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic. In contrast, in the new study, people’s adherence to treatment was 95% with the treatment food and 96.5% with the control food.

Statins have a much greater effect than any diet on cholesterol reduction. In the snacking treatment group, for example, LDL cholesterol dropped by about a third of the decrease that can be achieved by taking statin drugs.

Kopecky believes that people who consume these snacks regularly can further lower their LDL cholesterol. But he sees these types of diets as a supplement to statins, not a replacement.

The greatest direct value of this approach, he says, would be to help people who don’t want to or can’t take statins. He estimates this includes 15%-20% of patients whose cholesterol is high enough to merit a statin prescription. With nearly 40% of Americans at risk for heart disease because of high cholesterol, that’s a lot of people.

In the long run, Kopecky hopes the food industry will provide more foods that actually lower cholesterol, rather than just claiming to. But food companies follow what the market wants, he says. Americans probably won’t eat more healthy foods than they do now; in fact, they get 57% of their calories from ultra-processed foods like frozen meals and French fries. So maybe changing the content, but not the taste, of some of those foods would have a positive effect, he suggests.

“If the food industry follows suit and people start eating these foods, and you could lower cholesterol levels nationwide by 10%, that would have huge health implications,” he said.

This post Tasty Modified Snacks Work to Lower Cholesterol: Study

was original published at “https://www.webmd.com/cholesterol-management/news/20220128/tasty-snacks-lower-cholesterol?src=RSS_PUBLIC”