(11) High Blood Pressure
Cholesterol-lowering by diet
Can high blood cholesterol really be reduced by changing what we eat?
There is good evidence that the big differences in average blood cholesterol levels (and consequent differences in premature Non-pharmacological treatment coronary death rates) between different countries depend on differences in what people eat, and that when nations as a whole eat less fat or take more exercise (for example, the USA and Finland), average blood cholesterol levels fall, and so do coronary death rates. Unfortunately, efforts put into the same changes in personal diets have been less effective.
So what should I be doing with my diet if my cholesterol is raised?
There have been several clinical studies that have evaluated low fat diets on cholesterol reduction and risk of heart attack and stroke. Modest reductions of approximately 5% in total cholesterol over several months were achieved in these studies.
There is an association between the intensity of lowering your cholesterol intake by means of a diet and subsequent reduction in cholesterol levels. More intense, low-fat diets result in greater reduction in cholesterol than less intense diets. These intense Cholesterol-lowering diets have contributed to a small reduction in total mortality. Many of these studies lasted only around 6 months, but those that lasted at least 2 years provided stronger evidence for protection from cardiovascular disease, reducing the risk by about 25%.
Our general advice would be to try to reduce your dietary fat intake in conjunction with other non-drug therapies, but to be realistic in recognizing that dietary modification of your fat intake is difficult to achieve.
Is garlic good for high BP or high blood cholesterol?
Garlic has no significant effect on high BP, and there is conflicting evidence that it reduces blood cholesterol. Some studies have shown that large quantities of fresh (not powdered) garlic used in cooking reduce LDL cholesterol (‘bad’ cholesterol) by an average of 12% (about 0.7 mmol) but have no effect on HDL cholesterol (‘good’ cholesterol); other studies have shown no effect on cholesterol lowering.