October is National Cholesterol Month in UK and time to remind ourselves about the disturbing UK coronary heart disease statistics. When it comes to causes of death in UK, Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) is the big hitter. It is simply the biggest single killer in the UK alone. 2015 statistics show that almost 70, 000 deaths each year are due to CHD. Scotland and the North of England, where I live, have the highest rates in the nation.
So what can we do about it?
This is where cholesterol comes in. I’m sure most of us now know about the link between high cholesterol and heart disease. The thing that does confuse a lot of people, however, is – just what is the best diet to reduce cholesterol and prevent heart disease?
When I first started practising as a Dietitian over 20 years ago, the advice was pretty austere. I found an old diet sheet that I used in a hospital that I worked at in the beginning of the 90’s and the advice was, in line with the evidence based at the time:
- Fruit was allowed, juices and sugar were ok
- Legumes/pulses were allowed
- Whole-grains were encouraged
- Vegetables were encouraged but NO olives or avocado
- No eggs, nuts, butter, oil or margarine (or VERY small scrapes margarine). God forbid someone should eat peanut butter!
- Prawns and offal meats were a “no, no”
- Only restricted amounts very lean meats and fish, white was better
- Low fat dairy only- we are talking skimmed
- Low salt and goodbye alcohol
Meals were dry, bland and unappetising. This was not an easy diet to follow!
Shortly after working in that hospital, I did a stint as the Dietitian for the National Heart Foundation, in Australia. As part of the job, I answered consumer phone calls on diet and cholesterol. The main queries that I received were, from memory, about eggs, nuts and seafood. It was pretty harsh having to tell all the “shrimp/prawn on the barbie” lovers that they had to limit their intakes. At that time, we were also recommending vegetable oils over others and had just started to think about trans- fats. Things were on the move with our understandings and advice for lowering cholesterol.
Fortunately, over the years, there has been so much great research into diet and heart disease. We have been able to update the old diet sheets many times as new evidence emerges. We changed our stance on avocado, olives and nuts and have started to recognise the roles of the different types of fats in the diet- saturated and unsaturated (poly and mono). Even eggs have had a reprieve.
The next breakthrough for dietary recommendations and cholesterol lowering came in the form of the Mediterranean style diet and the newer diet sheets read as follows: (this is one from a hospital I worked at recently). You can see already the diet is more “user friendly”.
- Plenty of fruit and vegetables
- Plenty of whole-grains – breads, cereals and grains
- Include nuts, unsalted
- Moderate fat dairy is ok as are lean meats of any variety
- Include legumes/pulses – peas, beans and lentils
- Moderate alcohol consumption encouraged
- Include oily fish at least once or twice a week
- Not a low fat diet! Replace saturated fat with unsaturated fats
But it hasn’t stopped there. Vegetarian and plant based eating is on the rise for heart benefits. I think my favourite development with the cholesterol lowering/heart healthy diet, however, has been that we don’t just focus on telling people “what NOT to eat”. We now are able to suggest foods to add IN to the diet.
So many people think that as soon as they go to see the Dietitian, they will be told to cut everything out!
For CHD prevention, we are now focussing on “cholesterol busting” foods which have been found to be cardio-protective. These foods include – soya foods, nuts, oats, barley and soluble fibre rich foods, sterols and stanols have been found to have cholesterol lowering effects.
So, twenty years on, where are we with dietary advice for cholesterol lowering?
When looking for the holy grail in dietary advice for cholesterol lowering, we may be getting closer. There will, of course, always be new and challenging concepts in the prevention and dietary management of CHD but I think we may be pretty close to finding the answer.
The Ultimate Cholesterol Lowering Plan© ,produced by Heart UK with a number of experts, includes both the Mediterranean Diet the cholesterol busting food idea in the following advice:
- Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables- at least 5 servings a day
- Enjoy whole-grains- breads, cereal and grains
- Include lean meats – all varieties
- Focus on plant based eating
- Include oily fish once or twice a week
- Reduce saturated fats and replace with healthy unsaturated fats
- Limit sugary drinks and keep alcohol within healthy limits
- Add at least 2 of the cholesterol busting foods each day – (soy foods, nuts, products containing plant sterols/stanols or oats, barley or other soluble fibre containing foods such as legumes/pulses)
Of course, it is much more detailed than this – you can read the whole plan here .
I really like this Ultimate Cholesterol Lowering Plan and now use the resources that Heart UK have produced for Health Professionals to use when helping clients to lower their cholesterol. This plan is a lot more realistic and is worlds away from the old extreme low fat diets that were the “thing” when I first started as a Dietitian.
I was excited to see that the UCLP© has now launched the new UCLP Store Tour Film with leading Dietitian Lucy Jones .
This is a great video, with a practical example of what to put into the Ultimate Cholesterol Lowering Shopping Basket.
Launch – I will be there! Tweeting out the info for you!
On Wednesday evening, 21st October, I am lucky to be attending the launch of the store tour. The evening will include an information session on Diet and Cholesterol and on the new store tour video.
I will be tweeting all the information as it comes to hand – look out for the #UCLP© hastag! I will be tweeting from around 7 pm to 9.30 pm UK time.
The topics will be really interesting – including:
- cholesterol lowering diet trends over the years
- key foods for cholesterol lowering
- saturated fat – what is the “deal”
- the ULCP© resource and the new video
Please read along with my tweets to learn more and do check out the UCLP©. I’m hoping my fingers will keep up with all of the fabulous stuff coming out of the evening!
- please note this is a sponsored post
- image provided courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee at Freedigitalphotos.net