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Diet and Your Heart
Photo: Sanja Gjenero
Here are some quick info bytes about heart disease and vegetarian nutrition:
  • A study in Spain found that the consumption of cooking oils that had deteriorated from overuse, was associated with an increased risk of hypertension.

  • Human studies have shown that flaxseed meal can modestly reduce serum cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, reduce postprandial glucose absorption, decrease some markers of inflammation. Hence, flaxseed may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. It is a rich source of lignans (a phytoestrogen), alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3), and soluble fiber.

  • In the Los Angeles Atherosclerosis Study researchers found that eating foods rich in soluble fiber was associated with a decrease in the atherosclerotic lesions in the carotid arteries.

  • Soy, garlic, and purple grapes have antithrombotic effects, while monounsaturated-fat-rich plant foods may also have a protective role in blood clotting.

  • Subjects with elevated blood lipid levels can experience 30% reduction in their LDL cholesterol levels (similar to that seen with statins, cholesterol-reducing drugs) by consuming a therapeutic diet that contains oats and barley, soy protein and almonds, and plant sterol-enriched margarines.

  • A review of recent studies showed that oatmeal, barley, soy, and soft margarines containing added plant sterols all lower LDL cholesterol levels.

  • When subjects, who had elevated cholesterol levels, were fed foods low in saturated fat and high in plant sterols, soy protein, and water-soluble fibers for one month, their LDL cholesterol levels dropped 29 percent, a response similar to that seen in subjects eating a control diet and taking Mevacor, a costly lipid-lowering drug that has side effects.

  • Adults consuming a diet containing 22 g of cocoa powder and 16 g of dark chocolate a day experienced increased levels of HDL cholesterol and a decreased susceptibility of oxidation of LDL cholesterol, and hence a reduced risk of cardio-vascular disease. The procyanidins in cocoa are thought to provide the protective effects. The same compounds are also found in apples.

  • A study in Norway found that individuals who usually drank about 4 cups of coffee a day experienced a significant decrease in plasma homocysteine and total cholesterol levels when they abstained from coffee for six weeks. Lower levels of these two substances are associated with a decreased risk of heart disease.

  • The daily use of pomegranates was observed to reduce one's blood pressure and protect against cardiovascular disease.

  • Consumption of pecans in a cholesterol-lowering diet produced a further 10 percent reduction in LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels while producing a slight rise in good HDL cholesterol level.
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By Winston J. Craig, R.D. Copyright © 2007 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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