High cholesterol: Nutritionist reveals top prevention tips
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Cholesterol provides myriad health benefits, such as helping to make certain hormones and supporting your metabolism. However, having high levels of LDL cholesterol can hike your risk of heart disease because it collects in the walls of your blood vessels. Lowering high LDL levels therefore provides a buffer against heart disease.
Specific dietary decisions have been shown to deal a decisive blow to high cholesterol levels.
According to research published in the journal Nutrients, berberine supplements are included in this category.
Berberine is a bioactive compound that can be extracted from several different plants.
To investigate the cholesterol-lowering benefits of berberine, researchers conducted a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel trial in Hong Kong.
Chinese men with hyperlipidemia were randomized to berberine (500 mg orally, twice a day) or placebo for 12 weeks.
Hyperlipidemia is a medical term for abnormally high levels of fats (lipids) in the blood, which include cholesterol.
Cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as high cholesterol, were assessed at baseline, and eight and 12 weeks after intervention.
Of the 84 men randomised, 80 men completed the trial. Men randomised to berberine had “larger reductions” in total cholesterol after 12 weeks.
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Total cholesterol describes the overall amount of cholesterol in your blood.
“Considering changes after 8 and 12 weeks together, berberine lowered total cholesterol and possibly low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL-c), and possibly increased testosterone,” the researchers wrote.
They concluded: “Berberine is a promising treatment for lowering cholesterol.”
While the study did not report any adverse effects from taking berberine, the supplement can cause side effects.
According to the Mayo Clinic, it may cause diarrhoea, constipation, gas, nausea or vomiting.
It may also cause harm to babies during pregnancy and breastfeeding, warns the health body.
Get doctor’s okay before taking the cholesterol-improving supplement, it advises.
General tips to lower high cholesterol
The NHS says: “To reduce your cholesterol, try to cut down on fatty food, especially food that contains a type of fat called saturated fat.”
According to the health body, you can still have foods that contain a healthier type of fat called unsaturated fat.
Try to eat more:
- Oily fish, like mackerel and salmon
- Brown rice, bread and pasta
- Nuts and seeds
- Fruits and vegetables.
Try to eat less:
- Meat pies, sausages and fatty meat
- Butter, lard and ghee
- Cream and hard cheese, like cheddar
- Cakes and biscuits
- Food that contains coconut oil or palm oil.
You should also aim to do at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of exercise a week, adds the NHS.
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