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A study in JAMA shows that a diet that includes soy, eggplant, almonds and other plants lowers blood levels of the bad LDL cholesterol as much as statin drugs do.

46 men and women with high blood cholesterol levels were in the study. 16 ate the vegetarian diet for one month, 16 consumed a standard low-fat diet, and 14 ate the low-fat diet and took 20 milligrams of Mevacor every day for a month. The vegetarian group showed an average drop of 28.6 percent in their bad LDL cholesterol, that increases risk for heart disease.

Adding the drug Mevacor to a vegetarian diet did not lower cholesterol any more than the vegetarian diet's 30 percent reduction. The low fat diet, which doctors have recommended for more than 45 years, lowered cholesterol by only eight percent. This tells you that the most important way to prevent heart attacks by lowering cholesterol is to eat lots of plants. Adding a statin drug to the vegetarian diet did not lower cholesterol signficantly further.

Two important indicators of heart attack risk are blood levels of the bad LDL cholesterol and C-reactive protein (CRP). CRP is a blood marker of inflammation that appears to be even better as a measure of risk for a heart attack than blood cholesterol level. The high-vegetable diet lowered both of these markers as well as the popular statin drug, and more than a low-fat diet. The fiber-rich diet included eggplant, okra, soy protein, almonds, margarine containing plant sterols, barley and psyllium, all foods that alone have been shown to have potentially beneficial effects on cholesterol.

Journal of the American Medical Association, 290:502-510, July 23, 2003. Effects of a Dietary Portfolio of Cholesterol-Lowering Foods vs Lovastatin on Serum Lipids and C-Reactive Protein. David J. A. Jenkins, MD; Cyril W. C. Kendall, PhD; Augustine Marchie, BSc; Dorothea A. Faulkner, PhD; Julia M. W. Wong, RD; Russell de Souza, RD; Azadeh Emam, BSc; Tina L. Parker, RD; Edward Vidgen, BSc; Karen G. Lapsley, DSc; Elke A. Trautwein, PhD; Robert G. Josse, MB, BS; Lawrence A. Leiter, MD; Philip W. Connelly, PhD.

May 19th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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