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A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and nuts may reduce cholesterol levels and consequently lower the risk of heart disease as effectively as state-of-the-art drug therapy, results of a recent study reveal.

However, the diet contains three to four times more fiber – mostly from leafy vegetables – than the traditional Western diet and may be difficult to adhere to.

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A significant percentage of adults in the Western world are candidates for cholesterol-lowering drugs. Possibly a better way forward, nutritionally and environmentally, is to retrace our steps to the original diet of humans and incorporate more plant foods in today’s diets.

The researchers investigated the effects of three diets on 10 healthy individuals. Each person followed a vegetarian diet rich in fruits, vegetables and nuts containing 100 grams of fiber; a diet of mostly cereals and legumes, containing 40 grams of fiber; and a low-fat diet that contained 25 grams of fiber, for 2 weeks.

Nutrition guidelines recommend that most people consume 25 to 35 grams of fiber daily. Each diet was separated by 9 months and contained about 2,500 calories a day, according to the report in the April issue of Metabolism.

After just 1 week, individuals on the high-fiber diet lowered total cholesterol by about 20% and reduced LDL (”bad”) cholesterol by about 30%.

SOURCE: Metabolism 2001.

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