When we talk about lipids, or fats, when it comes to our bodies, healthy is a relative term. We need a certain amount of cholesterol in our systems, for example, in order to maintain a good mood, produce sufficient bile, and create many of the hormones we depend on as essential for a normal life. On the other hand, too much cholesterol, especially LDL or triglycerides, can lead to decreased cardiovascular health and an increased risk for stroke or heart attack.
When it comes to fats in our diets, the ratios of fats we consume can play an important role. Too many of us consuming a typical Western diet take in far too many omega-6 fats without balancing out the difference with healthy omega-3 consumption. The deficit can lead to very detrimental inflammation and degraded cell health in the body.
In the following studies, researchers explored a variety of nutrients that showed promise in supporting a more balanced lipid profile.
Sea buckthorn reduced cholesterol
Doctors combined results from 11 studies covering 900 people who took sea buckthorn berries or extract. Some participants were healthy, some had fatty liver disease, and others had high lipid levels.
Overall, sea buckthorn reduced total cholesterol by an average of 24.3 mg per deciliter of blood (mg/dL); triglycerides by 40.7 mg/dL, and LDL cholesterol by 23.9 mg/dL. Those taking sea buckthorn who had higher chances of developing heart or circulatory diseases saw HDL, the “good” cholesterol, increase by 10.4 mg/dL.
Discussing the findings, doctors said the heart-protective effects of sea buckthorn may be due to the antioxidant phytochemicals, especially flavonoids and beta-sitosterol.
Reference: Trends in Food Science & Technology; March, 2017, Vol. 61, 1-10
Ginger reduced inflammation, improved lipids
Doctors analyzed findings from nine studies covering 449 people who had taken one to three grams of ginger per day for study durations of eight weeks to three months.
Overall, those taking ginger saw the inflammatory factor C-reactive protein decline by an average of 0.84 milligrams per liter of blood, regardless of the dose of ginger in the study. The ginger groups also had lower levels of an enzyme involved in inflammation, and fewer pro-inflammatory proteins.
Average triglyceride levels declined by 1.63 mg/dL, and HDL, the “good” cholesterol, increased by 1.16 mg/dL. Fasting blood sugar levels declined by an average of 1.35 mg/dL, and long-term average blood sugar levels declined by one percentage point, a finding doctors said was quite significant. The phenols, polyphenols, and flavonoids in ginger may provide these blood-sugar lowering effects.
Doctors said supplementing with ginger may be an effective means of preventing and managing heart and circulatory diseases.
Reference: Food & Nutrition Research; 2016, eCollection, Vol. 60, 32613
Earlier studies suggest the soluble fiber glucomannan reduces LDL—the “bad” cholesterol—but there are relatively few studies, most of which are small and of short duration. Here, doctors reviewed and analyzed findings from 12 placebo-controlled trials covering 370 adults and children who took 3 grams of glucomannan fiber per day for at least three weeks.
Overall, those taking 3 grams of glucomannan per day saw LDL decline by an average of 10 percent, and other non-HDL cholesterol decline by 7 percent.
Commenting on the findings, doctors said that because of its non-HDL cholesterol-lowering effects, government health agencies may wish to recommend adding glucomannan to the diet as a way to reduce chances of heart and circulatory events in the general population.
Reference: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; March, 2017, Published Online
Polysaccharide and Psyllium
Studies have found high-fiber diets reduce chances for several chronic diseases. In this study, 93 overweight or obese men and women, ages 19 to 68, took 5 grams of the dietary fibers polysaccharide or psyllium, or a rice flour placebo, before meals. All participants maintained their usual diet and lifestyle over the 12-month study period.
At three months, compared to placebo, the polysaccharide and psyllium fiber groups had significantly lower insulin levels, less insulin resistance, lower total cholesterol levels, and lower LDL cholesterol levels. Glucose levels were also lower in the polysaccharide group. Most of these improvements continued through six months, and by 12 months, those in the polysaccharide group also saw HDL—the “good” cholesterol—levels increase significantly compared to placebo.
Discussing the findings, doctors said that adding dietary fiber to the diet, without having to change an existing dietary pattern, may help maintain healthy glucose and insulin levels and improve lipids.
Reference: Nutrients; 2017, Vol. 9, No. 2, 91
Betsy’s Note: This article is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease. Consult your healthcare provider before taking a supplement, especially if you take prescriptions or over-the-counter medications. For example, supplements in this article may thin blood. Also, fiber can interfere with full absorption of other nutrients when consumed at the same time as another supplement or medication because fiber can bind to those other nutrients, thereby preventing absorption.
Article copyright 2018 by Natural Insights for Well Being. All rights reserved. Used with permission.