Cholesterol Fighting Foods for Your Diet Portfolio (cont.)

Jenkins and colleagues have shown that people who religiously follow the portfolio diet can lower their cholesterol. But how does it work in the real world?

To find out, they signed up people who said they wanted lower cholesterol. They told them what to eat and gave them sample menus -- but they didn't provide any prepared foods.

"Just about a third of them get very good results, with better than a 20% reduction in the 'bad' LDL cholesterol after six months," Jenkins says. "Those results are constant from two weeks to six months. So after two weeks you can say, 'These are the people who are likely to stay the course.'"

Another 31% of participants had about a 15% reduction in LDL cholesterol with the portfolio diet. But 35% of participants failed to lower their cholesterol, probably because they weren't able to follow the portfolio diet.

"Most people complied with the advice to eat almonds and to substitute plant sterol products for margarine," Jenkins said. "But fewer people were able to use soy milk and soy dogs and tofu instead of meat and dairy. Having said that, people who were fairly robust at being able to whip up something at home tended to do best. Those who relied on packaged goods or had to eat out a lot had more of a problem."

Is the Portfolio Diet Right for You?

Should you be on the portfolio diet? Most people who want to lower their cholesterol are worried about their heart health. So WebMD turned to Richard Milani, MD, director of the cardiovascular health center at Ochsner Clinic, New Orleans.

"If your goal is cholesterol reduction, this is a very adequate plan," Milani says. "If your goal is weight reduction, this may not be it. If your goal is reducing your risk of heart attack, the Mediterranean diet may be better -- although plant sterols and nuts are part of the Mediterranean diet, too."

But Milani is quick to note that the foods in the portfolio diet can be added to almost any healthy diet.

"What Jenkins and colleagues are saying is you can take these components and put them in any diet," Milani says. "It can be done -- inexpensively -- to get people's cholesterol under control."

Jenkins notes that cholesterol-lowering drugs have more side effects at high doses. He therefore suggests that the foods in the portfolio diet may help people get the most out of these drugs -- without increasing the dosage.

SOURCES: David J.A. Jenkins, MD, PhD, DSc, director, clinical nutrition and risk factor modification center, St. Michael's Hospital; and professor of nutritional sciences, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Richard Milani, MD, director, cardiovascular health center, Ochsner Clinic, New Orleans. Jenkins, D.J.A. Journal of the American Medical Association, July 23/30, 2003; vol 290: pp 502-510. Almond Board of California web site.

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Last Editorial Review: 1/31/2005 8:49:49 AM