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Monday, 19 August, 2002, 23:08 GMT 00:08 UK
Honey and nuts fight cholesterol
The foods could reduce heart disease risk
People aiming to lower their cholesterol should turn to honey and almonds as well as fruits and vegetables, scientists say.

Two separate studies suggest the foods could be beneficial because both help lower cholesterol.

Researchers discovered honey contained as many antioxidants - which combat the free radicals which can damage cells - as spinach, apples, oranges or strawberries.

Honey could be included in a diet, but I don't think it's ever going to replace fruit and vegetables

Dr Wendy Doyle, British Dietetic Association
The scientists from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign say honey appears to have a "mild protective effect".

It was already known that honey contained varying levels of antioxidants, with dark honey having more than light.

But this is the first study to examine honey's effect on human blood.


In the study, researchers checked the blood of 25 men aged 18 - 68 over five weeks.

They found drinking four tablespoons of honey mixed into a 16-ounce glass of water improved the antioxidant levels in their blood.

The team is currently conducting a study on rabbits to see if honey could slow atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.

But researchers say honey cannot replace fruits and vegetables in a heart-healthy diet.

Dr Nicki Engeseth, who led the study which was presented to the American Chemical Society, said: "It looks like honey is having a mild protective effect."

Cholesterol levels

In a second study, published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, Canadian researchers showed eating almonds lowered cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of heart disease.

Although the theory that eating nuts could reduce a person's heart disease risk had been mooted before, their calorie content meant people trying to control their diets were not advised to eat them.

But the research by doctors at St Michael's Hospital Toronto, funded by The Almond Board of California and the Canadian government found diets including almonds reduced levels of "bad" cholesterol.

Almonds, like other nuts, contain "healthy" unsaturated fats.

Twenty-seven men and women with high cholesterol and an average age of 64, were studied over three months.

For the first month, patients ate a full dose of almonds (74 grams), which was just under a quarter of their total daily caloric intake.

In the second month, they ate a half dose each day.

In the last month, they ate a low-saturated fat, whole-wheat muffin each day. which had around the same amount of calories, protein and saturated and polyunsaturated fats.

After eating the full portion diet, patients levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad" cholesterol) fell by about 9.4%, and after the half-portion diet by 4.4%.

Cholesterol levels did not fall significantly during the month patients ate the muffins.

Alice Lichtenstein, vice-chair of the American Heart Association's nutrition committee, said: "This study suggests that replacing carbohydrates with monounsaturated fat - within the context of a diet that is low in saturated, trans fat and cholesterol - favourably affects cholesterol levels and cardiovascular risk."

Balanced diet

But Dr Wendy Doyle of the British Dietetic Association warned both honey and almonds would only be beneficial as part of a healthy balanced diet.

She told BBC News Online: "Honey is OK, but fruit and vegetables contain a wide range if other health benefits.

"They are low in fat, low in calories and high in fibre. Honey contains fructose, which is not good for your teeth.

"It could be included in a diet, but I don't think it's ever going to replace fruit and vegetables."

Dr Doyle added that it was known that almonds, along with other nuts contained healthy fats, but that they were also high in calories - 612 per 100 grammes.

See also:

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