How do vegetarian diets affect cholesterol levels?

vegetables in a pan
Following a vegetarian diet decreases the levels of total cholesterol in the system, a new review and meta-analysis suggests.
A new review of almost 50 studies related to nutrition suggests that plant-based diets are associated with lower total cholesterol levels. The authors believe that these findings will have an impact on preventive care for cardiovascular diseases.

Researchers from three institutions have recently put together a comprehensive review and meta-analysis looking at the effects that consuming a plant-based diet has on the level of plasma lipids, or the lipids, cholesterol, and triglycerides, found in blood.

High levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which is also known as “bad cholesterol,” have been associated with an increased risk of developing coronary heart disease (CHD).

Total cholesterol levels and the level of triglycerides have also been linked with an increased risk of CHD, although high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, which is also known as “good cholesterol,” is thought to play a protective role in the system.

The team suggests that hyperlipidemia, or high cholesterol, can often go undiagnosed and untreated, which is one of the reasons why it can become a dangerous health factor. However, cholesterol levels can be kept under control through an appropriate diet and physical exercise.

The review was conducted by Dr. Yoko Yokoyama, from Keio University in Fujisawa, Japan, in collaboration with Susan Levin, who is director of nutrition education at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, D.C., and Dr. Neal Barnard, from the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, also in Washington, D.C.


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