The Food Plan Wesley Milks Md Adopted To Cut His Ldl Without Meds
As a cardiologist, patients often ask me for ways to lower their cholesterol without taking statins. They wonder how effective and viable alternatives can be and what strategies they can use to lower their cholesterol in other ways.
I often tell my patients at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center that diet is key. A focus on a plant-based diet, reducing saturated fat, and increasing fiber with vegetables and whole grains, has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels with or without the use of statins. Those levels can drop further by incorporating supplements like soluble fiber products or plant sterols and stanols.
So several months ago, when my own LDL cholesterol climbed above the optimal range , I decided to find out for myself.
I’m 34, and have few traditional risk factors for atherosclerotic disease, aside from a family history. But because LDL cholesterol levels are so tightly associated with heart disease risk, I wanted to take action and change the way I eat.
Major portions of my diet, growing up in Ohio, included the standard American fare of bacon, eggs, and toast for breakfast, a sandwich and chips at lunch, and then “meat and potatoes”-based dinners. I indulged in pork barbecue, complete with Southern-style fixings, during medical training in North Carolina. So, I feel equipped to commiserate with my patients by sharing my personal journey down a new path.
Predominantly Pescatarian: My Modified Mediterranean Diet
Less Red Meat
What Raises The Risk Of High Cholesterol
Beyond diet, there are a number of lifestyle factors that can contribute to high cholesterol levels. Smoking is known to lower good cholesterol levels and also damages your arteries and blood vessels, raisin the risk of plaque buildup. Those who are more sedentary may also have a greater risk of having high cholesterol.
Your risk can also be affected by your family history. Those with a family history of heart disease may need to take extra care in monitoring their cholesterol ratio because arteries harden with plaque buildup, meaning the body needs to work harder to pump blood. Diabetics may also have a greater risk, as their LDL particles tend to stick to arteries. Glucose also attaches to lippoproteins, which remains in the bloodstream longer and may lead to the formation of plaque.
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The Vegan Diet And Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a fat-like sterol that plays an important role in helping our body make cell membranes, aid in the digesting process, make hormones, and essential vitamins like vitamin D. As there are limited Vegan sources of vitamin D, supplements are considered by specialists to be probably the most ideal approaches to get vitamin D. Tablets and chewy candies are bottomless decisions, yet vegan vitamin D supplements is additionally accessible in fluid and capsule structure, which you take sublingually .
The cholesterol in our blood originates from two sources. It comes from the foods we eat and also from our liver. The liver makes and synthesizes all the cholesterol in our body for exporting it to the other cells. Cholesterol and other fats are lipoproteins that are carried as spherical particles in our bloodstreams. Low-density lipoproteins and high-density lipoproteins are the two most common lipoproteins.
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Are Vegans Affected By Cholesterol Issues
The short answer is yes! Some people think that vegans dont need to worry about their cholesterol levels because they dont consume dietary cholesterol, which is found in animal products. In reality, there are many dietary and non-dietary factors that affect our risk of high cholesterol, including some that we cant influence like our age, family background and genes.
Its becoming increasingly easy for vegans to consume diets high in saturated fat, which can lead to high cholesterol. This is partly due to the popularity of coconut products and heavy use of saturated fats like coconut, palm and shea oils in the manufacturer of some vegan alternatives, such as plant-based butter and cheese and some convenience foods. Eating these products regularly can have a significant effect on the overall quality of our diets because they tend to add saturated fat, sugar and salt and push out healthier choices.
Regarding the wider aspects of heart health, vitamin B12 is a nutrient to consider. This is because low B12 status can result in a high homocysteine level, which has been linked to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. Make sure that your vegan diet follows our guidelines about B12-fortified foods or supplementation.
What Diet Increases The Risk Of High Cholesterol
It was once a long-standing belief that eating foods that had a lot of cholesterol could raise your blood cholesterol. However, it turns out that thats not quite the case. More recent studies have shown that dietary cholesterol doesnt have as much of an effect on your cholesterol levels as once thought.
However, other unhealthy dietary patterns certainly can cause cholesterol issues. You may be more at risk for developing high cholesterol if your diet includes too many:
Saturated fats: Saturated fats are found most often in animal products like meat and dairy. If eaten too frequently, they can raise LDL levels.
Trans fats: Similarly, trans fats also raise LDL levels. You should be avoiding trans fats as much as possible since they are heavily associated with other serious health conditions besides heart disease, including diabetes and even breast cancer.
Processed foods: Not only do processed foods tend to have more trans fats, but they also tend to have other unhealthy ingredients like inflammatory simple sugars and flour that could present significant health issues when eaten without moderation.
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What About The Cholesterol Myth
I wrote about the cholesterol skeptics in my book Carbophobia .
I think the issue was best summarized in a medical journal editorial entitled Cholesterol Myth Club on Par with Flat Earth Society that read: as mixed up as Flat Earth Society members obviously are, at least you can laugh their dumb idea off, and if you want to believe the Earth is flat, this view is not going to cause serious problems like coronary artery disease.
Lastly, here are some of the best videos to help understand more about diet and cholesterol. Sometimes folks will ask questions like does cholesterol have a lower limit, or, what about the size of LDL particles does that matter? Thankfully Dr. Greger addresses this in his video: Does LDL size matter? and Cholesterol does not appear to have a lower limit. A few concerns with dietary cholesterol is that theres a plateau effect issue and the postprandial issue. These videos explain the issues further: When Low Risk Means High Risk and Eggs and Arterial Function. Find out whats an Optimal Cholesterol Level to shoot for.
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Foods That Help Lower Cholesterol
So there are plenty of foods that you may want to avoid to prevent high cholesterol levels.
Luckily, there are several foods that you can incorporate into your diet that can lower your cholesterol as well.
Here are some heart-healthy options to add to your diet to lower cholesterol levels:
You might notice a trend here: all of the best foods that lower cholesterol are plant-based!
As it turns out, theres ample evidence to show that eating more plant-based foods is simply better for your health for various reasons. But how does a vegan diet lower cholesterol?
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Whats The Difference Between Good Cholesterol And Bad Cholesterol
Cholesterol swims in your blood bound to proteins called lipoproteins. These come in two versions LDL bad cholesterol and HDL good cholesterol.
LDL is the bad type of cholesterol because its high levels in the blood can form plaques in your arteries.
HDL is the good type because it carries cholesterol back to the liver where its broken down.
Cholesterol tests show the results for both.
Ideally, the HDL levels should be above 1mmol/L and the LDL levels under 3 mmol/L.
Vegan Foods With Saturated Fats
Omnivores get most of their saturated fats from animal products, which is probably not a good thing.
For vegans, there are only a few main sources of saturated fats:
- Coconut oil
So should you avoid foods with those in them?
No, in fact the opposite!
Research has shown that these types of saturated fats are actually good for you:
We found that eating relatively little of the longer chained saturated fatty acids and consuming plant-based proteins instead was associated with a lowered risk .
Studies on coconut oil show that while it does increase LDL, it also increases HDL cholesterol.
Direct Measurement Of Ldl Particle Concentrations
There are several competing methods for measurement of lipoprotein particle concentrations and size. The evidence is that the NMR methodology results in a 22-25% reduction in cardiovascular events within one year,contrary to the longstanding claims by many in the medical industry that the superiority over existing methods was weak, even by statements of some proponents.
Since the later 1990s, because of the development of NMR measurements, it has been possible to clinically measure lipoprotein particles at lower cost and higher accuracy. There are two other assays for LDL particles, however, like LDL-C, most only estimate LDL particle concentrations.
Direct LDL particle measurement by NMR was mentioned by the ADA and ACC, in a 28 March 2008 joint consensus statement, as having advantages for predicting individual risk of atherosclerosis disease events, but the statement noted that the test is less widely available, is more expensive ]. Debate continues that it is ââ¦unclear whether LDL particle size measurements add value to measurement of LDL-particle concentrationâ, though outcomes have always tracked LDL particle, not LDL-C, concentrations.
The LDL particle concentrations are typically categorized by percentiles, < 20%, 2050%, 50th80th%, 80th95% and > 95% groups of the people participating and being tracked in the MESA trial, a medical research study sponsored by the United States National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
How Does A Vegan Diet Help To Lower Cholesterol
A vegan diet means a healthier fat intake because most plants contain very little saturated fat, more fibre and antioxidants. It usually also contains more fruit and vegetables, pulses, wholegrains, nuts and seeds compared to an animal-based diet6.
All these characteristics help to keep your blood vessels healthy, prevent high cholesterol and plaque formation, and help to maintain a healthy blood pressure.
If you already have heart disease, atherosclerosis or high cholesterol, a vegan diet can work better than any drug or treatment. Dr Esselstyn15 says: it is unconscionable not to inform the cardiovascular disease patient of this option for disease resolution. To begin to eliminate chronic illness, the public needs to be made aware that a pathway to this goal is through WFPBN .
And another expert review12 agrees: Plant-based diets are the only dietary pattern to have shown reversal of CHD .
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What Foods Can A Vegetarian Eat To Reduce Cholesterol
Studies have shown that eating a nutritious plant-based diet rich in specific cholesterol-lowering foods can lower LDL cholesterol by close to 30% in just one month. Foods that have recognized cholesterol-lowering properties include oats, barley, beans, nuts, almonds, soy protein, wheat bran, wheat germ, and Brussels sprouts.
If choosing to follow a vegetarian diet, its important to ensure that you still maintain a balanced diet, getting enough protein, iron, and B vitaminsespecially B12.
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Can A Vegan Diet Lower Cholesterol
Switching to a vegan diet, which prioritizes whole plant foods and minimizes ultra-processed, sugar-sweetened, and packaged foods can help support normal cholesterol levels and promote heart health.
Choose a wide variety of plant foods that contribute fiber, vitamins, minerals, unsaturated omega-3 fats, protein, and antioxidants. Pair with regular exercise and other healthy lifestyle habits for the best results.
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Exercise Regularly And Stop Smoking
If youre a smoker, studies have shown that smoking can inhibit the production of HDL cholesterol. In one study of more than 1,500 people, those who quit smoking experienced twice the increase in HDL as those who resumed smoking within the year.
Being physically active is another way to maintain healthy cholesterol levels, particularly for strength training, aerobics, and high-intensity exercise such as HIIT and HICT . However, even low-intensity exercise has been shown to increase HDLs anti-inflammatory and antioxidant capabilities.
Food To Include In Vegan Diet
- Beverages: Vegan beverages such as almond milk, flavored water, tea, and coffee must be a part of your diet
- Fruits: Fruits are always a healthy addition to our diets. Your vegan diet must include apples, oranges, melons, pears, and peaches.
- Vegetables: Healthy vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, and other healthy vegetables must be a part of your diet.
- Nuts and Seeds: Pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, pecans, and walnuts must form a part of your vegan diet
- Healthy Fats: Instead of coconut and palm oil, you must include olive oil, avocado oil, and flaxseed oil in your diet.
- Whole grains: To make your diet complete, you must add brown rice, white wheat, oats, and barley to your diet.
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Vegetables And Vegetable Oil
Healthline recommends incorporating soluble fiber-rich vegetables like eggplant, okra, carrots, and potatoes into your diet to help lower cholesterol. This also includes dark, leafy greens such as kale, spinach, and collard greens.
According to Harvard Health, swapping dairy butter for liquid vegetable oils such as canola, sunflower, and safflower can help lower LDL.
How Long Does It Take To Reverse Heart Disease On A Vegan Diet
A plant-based diet was examined on patients with moderate to severe heart disease in Ornishs seminal study, which became known as the Plant-Based Nutrition Study. There were no operations or stents used just modest dietary and lifestyle modifications were implemented. Within a few weeks, 90 percent of the chest discomfort had subsided. After only one month, blood flow to the heart had significantly improved.
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Ways To Eat Your Way To Lower Cholesterol
Many people can lower cholesterol levels simply by changing what they eat. For example, if you are a fan of cheeseburgers, eating less meat and more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains can lower your total cholesterol by 25% or more. Cutting back on saturated fat and trans fat can reduce cholesterol by 5% to 10%.
Here are four steps for using your diet to lower cholesterol.
For more on lowering cholesterol, read Managing Your Cholesterol, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.
Do I Need To Worry About My Cholesterol Levels As A Vegan
Studies across the board show vegans have lower blood cholesterol levels than their vegetarian and omnivorous counterparts.
Editors Note: Have you ever wondered if you need to worry about your cholesterol levels as a vegan? Its a common question. To get the answer, I turned to a registered dietitian specializing in vegan nutrition, Anya Todd MS, RD. Heres her advice. KD Angle-Traegner
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Other Risk Factors For High Cholesterol
Lets examine ways that vegans can still have high cholesterol, beginning with diet. Processed foods, like baked goods, certain high fat nuts, and coconut oil are all examples of vegan foods high in trans fats. Eating a lot of foods that are high in saturated fats can push cholesterol levels up.
When analyzing blood cholesterol, the ratio of good cholesterol when measured against bad cholesterol in the blood is also an important factor. As noted above, vegans are frequently at risk of having lower levels of HDL cholesterol. If your overall cholesterol level is within range, but you dont have enough good cholesterol, the imbalance can still be unhealthy, leaving you at greater risk of heart disease.
Another factor that may contribute to high cholesterol in vegans is genetics. Those with a family history of high cholesterol, referred to in the medical world as familial hypercholesterolemia, may be predisposed to high cholesterol despite having healthy diet and exercise habits. In these cases, the body may be prone to overproducing cholesterol in the liver and/or clearing bad cholesterol from the blood and arteries inefficiently. If you have a family history of high cholesterol, you should talk to your doctor about monitoring your cholesterol levels early and often, regardless of your diet.