When you have high cholesterol levels and at risk for having atherosclerosis, your doctor usually prescribes statins, which are very good in bringing down LDL cholesterol levels. However, just like any other good medicine, statins have side effects like headache, nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, headache, rashes, weakness, and muscle pain. Although rare, liver failure and rhabdomyolysis, in which there is damage to the muscles, are two of the more serious side effects reported from taking statins.
There is now good news in a study that says that a fiber-rich diet is just as good as statins in lowering your high cholesterol levels.
Another wonderful news. The abstract of the study can be read here.
Diet Lowers Cholesterol as Well as Drug - Study Mon Feb 7, 2005 05:22 PM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) --- A diet rich in fiber and vegetables lowered cholesterol just as much as taking a statin drug, Canadian researchers reported on Monday.
They said people who cannot tolerate the statin drugs because of side-effects can turn to the diet, which they said their volunteers could easily follow.
David Jenkins of St. Michael's Hospital and the University of Toronto and colleagues created what they called a diet "portfolio" high in soy protein, almonds, and cereal fiber as well as plant sterols --- tree-based compounds used in cholesterol-lowering margarines, salad dressing and other products.
They tested their diet on 34 overweight men and women, comparing it with a low-fat diet and with a normal diet plus a generic statin drug, lovastatin.
Each volunteer followed each regimen for a month, with a break in between each treatment cycle.
Writing in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Jenkins and colleagues said the low-fat diet lowered LDL -- the low-density lipoprotein or "bad" cholesterol -- by 8.5 percent after a month. Statins lowered LDL by 33 percent and the "portfolio" diet lowered LDL by nearly 30 percent.
The portfolio was rich in soy milk, soy burgers, almonds, oats, barley, psyllium seeds, okra and eggplant.
While effective, statins are expensive drugs, and as mentioned, they have side-effects, which the patient may not be happy about.
I think doctors and patients alike should be open to try a diet program like the one described above and see if it is as effective as the statins.