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I need to change my dietary habits to lower my cholesterol and triglycerides. What should I focus on? — Pat, KS

Anne Coulston


 Blood lipid levels can be decreased by careful food selection, but remember that your individual levels are not only related to food intake, but also to your genetic profile. In some cases medication, along with appropriate food selection, may be necessary to lower blood lipid levels. Blood cholesterol levels are most sensitive to dietary saturated fats. Saturated fats are mostly found in animal fats such as the fat on meat and in full-fat dairy products.

You can and should continue to eat lean meats and low or fat free dairy products to benefit from the nutrients found in these foods. A recent study supported by the Almond Board, demonstrated that research subjects who consumed three ounces of almonds a day had significantly lower blood cholesterol than the research subjects who were not given almonds. This study was done in a controlled setting and the researchers provided all other foods eaten during the study period. Similar data have been reported for walnut consumption. Three ounces of nuts equals about 1/3 cup. Blood triglyceride levels, on the other hand, are more responsive to decreased body weight (if that's necessary) and decreased total carbohydrate intake. People who have both elevated blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels will have a more difficult time lowering their levels by changing their diet. Weight loss is probably the most powerful dietary tool.

About Anne Coulston

Ann M. Coulston, M.S.,R.D., graduated from Cornell University with a master's degree in nutritional science and is a former research dietitian at Stanford University Medical Center, and a past president of both the American Dietetic Association (1998-1999) and the California Dietetic Association. Ann specializes in clinical research on carbohydrate and lipid metabolism and collaborates with medical scientists in research on diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

She has been recognized for excellence in the practice of research and clinical nutrition by the American Dietetic Association Foundation, and is the recipient of the American Dietetic Association's Medallion award for leadership. The California Dietetic Association has awarded her the Distinguished Service and Outstanding Member awards.

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