In this, the third post on the "Rule of 60," we now turn to ways to reduce LDL cholesterol towards 60 mg/dl.
Of course, the standard reflexive response of most doctors when dealing with LDL cholesterol is to have you "cut the fats" and take a statin cholesterol drug.
How effective is "cutting the fat"?
In most instances, it is a miserable failure. "Cutting the fat" refers to reducing saturated and hydrogenated fats from the diet, a strategy that results in 7-10% reduction in LDL cholesterol. That means if you begin with an LDL cholesterol of, say, 150 mg/dl, you can expect to reduce it to 135 mg/dl. The doctor then usually advises a statin drug.
That simple formula leaves plenty of room for improvement. There are, in fact, a number of useful non-prescription strategies for reducing LDL far more, often sufficient to achieve ambitious drops like the one we use in our heart disease reversal program.
LDL can be reduced by:
- Non-wheat fibers─Ground flaxseed is by far the best. This combination of protein, fibers, and healthy oils with no digestible carbohydrates can reduce LDL cholesterol 20-30 mg/dl. Another good non-wheat fiber is oat bran, with twice the beta glucan (fiber) content compared to oatmeal. Use it just like flaxseed as a hot cereal, etc. Use it as a hot cereal or added to other foods, such as chilis, yogurt, oatmeal, etc. 2-3 tbsp per day is the desired quantity for both.
- Raw nuts─Best are the fiber-coated nuts like almonds, walnuts, pecans, and hazelnuts. Raw pistachios (tough to find; try Trader Joe's) are another good choice. Benefits begin at ¼ cup per day or more. Nuts, provided they are raw (and not "honey roasted," "party mix," "beer nuts," mixed nuts roasted in hydrogenated oils, etc.) do not cause weight gain, contrary to popular advice. They can be eaten in unlimited quantities.
- Elimination of wheat, cornstarch, and sugary snacks─Because over 70% of adults now have small LDL particles triggered by these foods, elimination leads to a dramatic reduction of both small LDL and total LDL. However, this strategy works only if a substantial proportion (>30%) of LDL particles are small. (This requires a test called "lipoprotein analysis.")
- Flavonoids─These are the brightly-colored components of foods that confer many of the wonderful health properties of vegetables and fruits. The most prominent LDL-reducing effects have been shown for dark chocolate (preferably 70% cocoa or greater) and brewed green tea (brewed only; never instant or pre-mixed bottles). Dark chocolate, 40 grams (approximately 2 inches square) or several cups green tea per day are required for full effect.
- Vitamin D─Restoration of vitamin D levels to normal can yield reductions in LDL of 10-20 mg/dl.
- Stanol esters─Stanol esters are available as butter substitute, Benecol®. Adding two tablespoons per day to your diet can reduce LDL cholesterol by about 25 mg/dl. (There is a related additive called "sterol" esters that are being added to many new products such as yogurt, orange juice, and other butter substitutes; however, I have some serious reservations about the safety of sterol esters and therefore do not endorse their use. Perhaps a post for future.)
- Normal thyroid function is yet another important factor contributing to LDL control. See my post, Correct Heart Disease through Your Thyroid: Learn How for a discussion. Low levels of thyroid dysfunction are very common and often undiagnosed, yet offer another easy, healthy means to reduce LDL, sometimes with dramatic effect. While a prescription thyroid hormone may be required, it is really not a drug, but restoring a hormone level─a lot more preferable to a non-human pharmaceutical agent.
Those are the principle strategies that we use to reduce LDL dramatically. While perhaps not as simple as taking one tablet a day, they work while restoring health in other ways.