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EDITIONS
Sunday, 15 December, 2002, 00:01 GMT
Vegetarian diet 'cuts heart risk'
The diet combines vegetables, fruit and nuts
Eating more vegetables and soya-based products may be as effective at reducing cholesterol as medication.

Researchers in Canada have developed a vegetarian combination diet which they say cuts cholesterol by almost a third in just one month.

The diet includes vegetables, such as broccoli and red peppers; soy milk and soy sausages; oat bran cereal and bread; and fruit and nuts.

There is hope for a drug-free treatment for some people with high cholesterol

Prof David Jenkins
The researchers believe the food programme could be a possible drug-free alternative to cutting cholesterol and protecting people from heart disease.

Coronary heart disease kills more than 110,000 people a year in England. A major cause is cholesterol circulating in the bloodstream.

Combination diet

It has been known for many years that individually soy protein, nuts and fibres like oats and barley can cut cholesterol by up to 7%.

Professor David Jenkins and colleagues at the University of Toronto decided to test whether the impact was stronger if these foods were combined.

They drew up a seven-day food plan using foods that are commonly available in supermarkets and health stores.

A typical day on the diet included:

  • A breakfast of soy milk, oat bran cereal with chopped fruit and almonds, oatmeal bread, vegetable-based margarine and jam;

  • a lunch of soy cold cuts, oat bran bread, bean soup and fruit; and

  • A stir-fry dinner with vegetables, tofu, fruit and almonds.

    The researchers put 13 people on the combination diet for a month. They found that their cholesterol levels had dropped by 29% by the end of the period.

    The researchers said the findings suggested the combination diet may be as effective as statins.

    These drugs have been used extensively for 15 years to treat patients with high levels of cholesterol.

    Professor Jenkins said further and larger studies are needed before the diet could be recommended to patients.

    He said: "The take home message right now is that there is hope for a drug-free treatment for some people with high cholesterol.

    "For us, the main feature now is to move this forward into longer-term studies."

    But he added: "This opens up the possibility that diet can be used much more widely to lower blood cholesterol and possibly spare some individuals from having to take drugs."

    The study is published in the journal Metabolism.

  • See also:

    27 Nov 02 | UK
    13 Nov 01 | Health
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