Wed, 18 Oct 2000

Healthy diet, lifestyle control cholesterol



I am continuing to read your articles and trying to keep to my healthy lifestyle. I have always had a high cholesterol problem which I have tried to control through diet and exercise - minimizing red meat, plenty of fruit, veggies, watching the alcohol intake, some fish, although I'm not wild about seafood.

I've managed to get the total down to 260-280 from 320 but I've noticed a drop in the HDL from the high 40's to the low 40's. Any suggestions on raising the HDL level?

With the exercise my blood pressure is fine so I'm reluctant to reach for medication. My age is 47, height 183 cms and weight 82 kgs.

Many thanks,



Dear John,

Congratulations on your healthy lifestyle and you are wise to avoid medication at this stage. Your weight is good for your height, keep up the exercise and I presume you don't smoke.

Although your HDL is still average, the following dietary advice may help to increase it.

Polyunsaturated fats, particularly those high in linoleic acid, such as corn oil and sunflower oil, and monounsaturated fats will help lower LDL levels. However, monounsaturates, like olive and rapeseed (canola) oil do not lower HDL levels, so they are preferable. Unfortunately, too much polyunsaturated fat can lower HDL.

Frequently use garlic, peppers (including chili), shitake mushrooms and turmeric in your cooking. These are all excellent at lowering "bad" cholesterol. Also, research has shown that regular intakes of soya, equivalent to about 600 ml of soya milk per day, can lower LDL by up to 25 percent.

Don't be too strict with yourself about alcohol John. There is evidence that a glass of beer or wine most nights of the week will increase HDL. Learn to like green tea too.

Keep eating plenty of fruit and vegetables for their phytochemicals and increase your intake of soluble fiber if you can. Soluble fiber is found in the greatest quantities in oats, pulses and many fruits and vegetables.

Try to eat some fish weekly. Canned fish is also beneficial, so how about a Salad Nicoise occasionally? Some fish in your diet reduces triglycerides and has many other health benefits apart from supplying the Omega 3 E.F.Ams.

If you really don't like any seafood, fish oil supplements may be worth thinking about. However, there are contradicting studies about their benefits, as there are about most supplements. If you do decide to try them, look for good quality capsules which contain 400 mg or more of EPA and DHA. An evening primrose oil supplement taken at the same time is often suggested for correct metabolism.

Finally, fast, vigorous exercise does appear to raise HDL. Runners and tennis, squash and badminton players tend to have high HDL cholesterol levels. Get really enthusiastic and energetic with your exercise routine. Good luck.

Clare E. Urwin