Eat Almonds To Lower Blood Cholesterol

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This week our contributing writer Doctor Gifford-Jones talks about a natural way to lower blood cholesterol with a handful of almonds a day.

Would you like to lower blood cholesterol without having to use cholesterol-lowering drugs (CLDs)? In view of the millions of people taking this medication (I’ve been one of them) you may think this is a nutty suggestion. But if you were to be nuts about almond snacks every day, this would result in a significant drop in blood cholesterol.

Dr. David Jenkins, director of clinical nutrition at St. Michael’s hospital in Toronto, studied 27 men and women with high cholesterol for three months.

During the first month each person was given a snack that consisted of a full dose of almonds averaging 74 grams a day (two handfuls of almonds). In the second month they received half the dose of almonds averaging 37 grams a day. And in the final month they ate a low-saturated fat, whole-wheat muffin as a daily snack.

The result was good news for the almond industry. The full-dose of almonds reduced the bad cholesterol (low density lipoproteins LDL) by 9.4 percent. A half-dose of almonds decreased LDL cholesterol by 4.4 percent. The muffin snack had no effect.

Dr Jenkins and his colleagues report that almond snacks also resulted in improvements in both total cholesterol and good cholesterol (high density lipoproteins HDL).

So if you’re not allergic to nuts what effect would these changes have on the risk of coronary attack? Dr. Jenkins claims that two handfuls of almonds decrease the risk of cardiovascular by 20 percent. One handful reduces the risk by 18 percent.In all due respect to the almond industry one handful of almonds a day is enough for me. Fortunately, there are other ways to improve these results. For instance, Dr. Jenkins reports the risk can be decreased to 25 percent if your diet also includes other cholesterol-lowering foods such as oat bran, barley, psyllium and soy products.

Previous research has suggested that eating nuts is heart-healthy. But eating nuts has not been highly recommended due to the large number of calories in nuts. A reasonable concern, when nearly half the population is overweight.

But the people in this study did not gain weight. They were all well aware that nuts were food and made certain to eat sensibly. And they did not eat oily, highly salted or sugared nuts. The best kind of almond is the dry-roasted one.

I find this research interesting as I’m always looking for non-pill ways of lowering cholesterol. Since my bypass surgery I have had no problem with taking a baby Aspirin daily. It makes sense to oil the blood platelets, preventing the formation of a clot in coronary arteries.

But I’ve always been suspicious of CLDs. Initially I refused to take them. Later I decided it was prudent to follow my own advice that, “he who treats himself has a fool for a patient.”

But after a year on a CLD I began to notice tingling sensations in both lower legs. It’s not a major side effect but I wasn’t about to push my luck and so discontinued the medication.

Other complications of CLD are more serious and can be life threatening. Rhabdomyolysis occurs when skeletal muscle in injured. This results in the release of toxic products into the circulation causing damage to kidneys.

In 1998 I wrote that patients taking the CLDs Mevacor, Zocor and Lipitor should not drink grapefruit juice. Studies showed that grapefruit juice could increase the blood level of Mevacor 15 times. And that the continued use of grapefruit juice may result in rhabdomyolysis.

Cardiologists claim that thousands of lives have been saved by CLDs. After all, millions of patients have been on these drugs without dying from rhabdomyolysis. But food for thought is why millions of people need CLDs. Are these millions really that ill? If so a massive change in lifestyle is needed to prevent cardiovascular disease rather than reliance on pills.

If you are on a CLD be sure to tell your doctor if you develop unexplained muscle aches and pains. It’s also important to have regular blood tests to check on the health of the liver. And before agreeing to CLDs ask your doctor about a trial of almonds. Who knows? He or she may say it’s not such a nutty idea.

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