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A vegetarian diet actually lowers your cholesterol

A vegetarian diet lowers cholesterol because it leads to a lower intake of saturated fat, an increased intake of plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits and nuts (stock image)

A plant-based diet actually lowers cholesterol, according to a review of nearly 50 studies.

Vegetarians generally eat more vegetables, fruits and nuts, which means they have a lower intake of saturated fat, the researchers found.

These foods are naturally rich in components such as soluble fiber, soy protein, and plant sterols (cholesterol found in plants), all of which lower cholesterol.

High cholesterol is especially dangerous because it is often undiagnosed and therefore untreated.

It is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and vascular disease.

The authors suggest that eating more vegetables could be good preventive care for people who might be concerned about their cardiovascular health — helping them address the problem before it’s too late.

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A vegetarian diet lowers cholesterol because it leads to a lower intake of saturated fat, an increased intake of plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits and nuts (stock image)

A vegetarian diet lowers cholesterol because it leads to a lower intake of saturated fat, an increased intake of plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits and nuts (stock image)

WHAT ARE THE RISKS OF HIGH CHOLESTEROL?

High cholesterol is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and vascular disease.

If cholesterol builds up in your arteries, it can result in reduced blood flow, causing angina or even a heart attack if the artery becomes completely blocked.

If a vessel carrying blood to the brain becomes blocked, you can have a stroke.

It is also associated with diabetes and high blood pressure.

Vegetarians have lower cholesterol

Cholesterol is a fatty, wax-like substance that is present in every cell of your body.

Research led by Dr. Yoko Yokoyama of Keio University in Fujisawa found that vegetarians had 29.2 milligrams of total cholesterol per deciliter (one-tenth of a liter) less than meat eaters.

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For this review, the researchers defined a “vegetarian diet” as a diet that includes eating meat products less than once a month.

For meat eaters who follow a vegetarian diet, cholesterol could be reduced by 12.5 milligrams per deciliter.

The findings were compared to an omnivorous diet including meat.

If cholesterol builds up in your arteries, it can result in reduced blood flow, causing angina or even a heart attack if the artery becomes completely blocked.

If a vessel carrying blood to the brain becomes blocked, you can have a stroke.

It is also associated with diabetes and high blood pressure.

Vegetarians have a healthier body composition

The study looked at controlled trials and studies that looked at the effects of a vegetarian diet for at least four weeks.

Of the 8385 identified studies, 30 observational studies and 19 clinical studies met the inclusion criteria.

If cholesterol builds up in your arteries, it can result in reduced blood flow, causing angina or even a heart attack if the artery becomes completely blocked (picture).

If cholesterol builds up in your arteries, it can result in reduced blood flow, causing angina or even a heart attack if the artery becomes completely blocked (picture).

CHOLESTEROL

Cholesterol is a fatty, wax-like substance that is present in every cell of your body.

There are two main types of cholesterol.

LDL (low-density lipoprotein)—or “bad” cholesterol as it’s known—forms larger particles and collects in the lining of arteries, potentially blocking them.

HDL (high-density lipoprotein), or “good” cholesterol, is a smaller particle that has a positive role in removing cholesterol from peripheral tissues and helping to eliminate it from the body.

A vegetarian diet was associated with 29.2 milligrams less total cholesterol per deciliter (one-tenth of a liter).

‘You [individuals] who followed a vegetarian diet for a longer period of time may have a healthier body composition as well as better adherence to a vegetarian diet, both of which may affect blood lipids,” the researchers wrote in an article published in Medical News Today.

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“For any form of health care to work and for economic mobility to really work, we have to be healthy,” said co-author Susan Levin, director of nutrition education at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, DC.

LDL (low-density lipoprotein)—or “bad” cholesterol as it’s known—forms larger particles and collects in the lining of arteries, potentially blocking them.

HDL (high-density lipoprotein), or “good” cholesterol, is a smaller particle that has a positive role in removing cholesterol from peripheral tissues and helping to eliminate it from the body.

Build meals around plant foods

Dr. Levin said she encourages people to start being mindful about nutrition as early as possible.

“The first place to start is to build nutrient-packed plant-based meals that fit almost every cultural template, taste preference and budget,” she said.

“As a dietitian, my main message is to encourage everyone to start making dietary changes early in life,” Dr Levin told Medical News Today.

‘It’s easier to maintain optimal health than to change your diet at age 60 or 75, although to be clear, it’s never too late to make healthy lifestyle changes’.

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