Eat your veggies, it may cure your cholesterol woes

Wednesday, July 23rd 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

You've probably seen the ads for them on TV. A new generation of so-called statin drugs has done wonders for lowering cholesterol. Names like Zocor and Lipitor. But a new study suggests the cure for cholesterol might have already been in your local produce aisle. News on 6 reporter Steve Berg has more.

After a stroke and a heart attack, Bill Hoggatt started taking the drug Lipitor and he's been happy with the results. "I really am, it's really helped me." Lipitor is just one brand of the widely used statin drugs, which are extremely effectively in lowering cholesterol. But in a recent study, people who used a strict, specific vegetarian diet were able to reduce their cholesterol almost as much as the subjects who used the statin drugs. Cardiologist Robert Haas says the diet could be an alternative for people who have side effects from the drugs or who can't afford them. "They are expensive, cost is another issue, and there are folks, I think there's a lot of folks that don't want to take medicine if they don't have to." It's not just any food though.

The study specifies eggplants, okra, and almonds as being most helpful, along with barley and soy protein. Certain margarines that have plant sterols are good. As well as psyllium, which is found in laxatives. It's not really a question of whether this stuff is good for you; doctors are pretty sure about that. It's more a question of whether most people can stick to this diet for very long. Hoggatt, "I've never been much of a vegetarian." "I'd rather that he just take the medicine, because he like a lot of things that he wants sometimes, and I don't refuse him."

Dr Haas, "Making these kinds of dietary changes are extremely difficult, and a lot of patients are unable or unwilling to do it." Side effects from the drugs are rare, so people will probably continue to reach for the medicine cabinet, instead of the produce aisle.

Doctors say the vegetarian study only had a small number of people. They say a larger study is needed to know for sure if the veggie diet works as well as the drugs.

As always, check with your doctor before making changes to your treatment or diet.