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Cholesterol – the good, the bad and the debate over drugs vs. diet

Mazola Corn Oil - Cholesterol - 1975
Mazola Corn Oil - Cholesterol - 1975
Nesster/Flickr (cc by-nc-nd)

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Doctors have long touted the importance of a healthy lifestyle when it comes to lowering your cholesterol. But in recent years, the use of statins – drugs such as Lipitor, Crestor and Zocor -- has increasingly become the remedy of choice for those with high levels of low-density lipoprotein, or LDL – the so-called “bad” cholesterol. And for their doctors - last year saw over 355 million prescriptions dispensed for statins and other lipid-regulating drugs. Now a new Canadian study, published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, reports that a healthy diet may be just as effective as statins in reducing LDL levels. According to the study, subjects who followed a diet heavy in soy protein, nuts, grains and other plant sterols saw a 13 percent or more decline in cholesterol levels after six months. These results would appear to offer hope to those at high risk of heart disease. But doctors caution that diet isn’t a silver bullet cure. Many worry that the news might encourage patients to risk their health by abandoning cholesterol-controlling drugs. Statin or soy milk – what do you trust to unclog your arteries? Are you ready to toss your Lipitor and eat your legumes?


Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr., M.D., author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease and co-author of Forks Over Knives: The Plant-Based Way to Health

Lawrence Lazar, M.D., an interventional cardiology fellow at UCLA