Cholesterol: The Facts
Flora has launched a national health campaign in regards to cholesterol consumption; the aim of the campaign is to encourage Australians to base their food choices on the facts as many consumers are being duped by cholesterol claims.
With cholesterol levels in adult Australians remaining alarmingly high, it's time that savvy Australians based their food choices on the facts to ensure they get the cholesterol lowering benefits they need. Many foods claim they are good for cholesterol, but these often fail to give the whole story about their actual effect.
Fifty percent of adult Australians are affected by high cholesterol levels (above 5.5mmol/L), a figure that largely remains unchanged since 1980. Accurate information about the most effective foods to manage cholesterol is important if we are to improve this statistic.
Accredited Practicing Dietitian and best-selling author of the Australian Healthy Shopping Guide, and the Australian Healthy Cooking Guide Caron Milham says it's a case of buyer beware in the supermarket.
"We need to look at the facts behind marketing claims to ensure the foods we buy deliver the health benefits we want. We need to look beyond claims like 'cholesterol free' on some vegetable oils or crisps as vegetable oils don't actually contain cholesterol - only products with animal fat contain cholesterol. Moreover, the amount of saturated fat in food affects blood cholesterol levels much more than the amount of cholesterol it contains.
"Most people can lower their cholesterol by choosing an active lifestyle, achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight, and eating better. This means eating less food high in saturated and, trans fats and cholesterol and replacing some of these fats with foods high in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats such as healthy oils, nuts and seeds. It also means eating more vegetables, fruits, wholegrain breads and cereals, legumes, oily fish or fish oil, and choosing reduced fat dairy products and lean meats and poultry.
"In addition, plant sterol enriched foods, like some margarine spreads, and increasing foods high in soluble fibre, like oats, legumes, fruit and vegetables can also help lower cholesterol absorption because they prevent some of the cholesterol from being absorbed or reabsorbed. (This cholesterol is from the food we eat and from bile produced by the liver.)" says Milham.
Oat products actively use cholesterol claims but don't tell the whole story. Consumers need to know eating three bowls of oat cereal a day will only give half the results of a one rounded tablespoon of Flora pro-activ, a plant sterol enriched spread. A more realistic one bowl a day will have even less of an effect. While olive oil is a good oil rich in monounsaturated fats, when it comes to affecting cholesterol absorption Flora pro-activ is 10 times more effective. Similarly fish, especially oily fish, is a healthy food for the heart, however contrary to popular belief,fish has no effect on cholesterol.
A recent review of food and cholesterol studies supports the effectiveness of plant sterols when compared to other foods. The plant sterols in just 1 rounded tablespoon (25g) of Flora pro-activ a day - the amount typically spread on three slices of bread - lowers cholesterol absorption by 10% in 3 weeks on average, plus an additional 5% when moving to a healthy diet. Other food such as oats, almonds and olive oil don't come close in comparison. The cholesterol absorption lowering power of Flora pro-activ cannot be beaten by any other food.
The effectiveness of plant sterols in combating cholesterol is also supported by the Heart Foundation in their recent Position Statement on Dietary fats and dietary sterols for cardiovascular health.
Despite this, there are plenty of misunderstandings about Flora pro-activ, says Accredited Nutritionist for Flora, Brooke Sprott.
"People say you need to eat a lot of Flora pro-activ for it to work but the fact is a rounded tablespoon (25g) is all you need to lower cholesterol absorption by 10% in 3 weeks on average, and up to 15% if you improve the rest of your diet as well.
It's easy to eat this amount because Flora pro-activ is versatile. Flora pro-activ can be spread on bread, toast or crispbread, melted over vegetables or used in baking as a much healthier alternative to butter."
"The other common belief is Flora pro-activ is expensive but it actually offers good value because it is scientifically proven to work and only costs 50c a day."
"When 1 in 2 adult Australians are affected by cholesterol, it's important for consumers to know which foods work best to get it down," says Sprott.Flora pro-activFlora pro-activ
is the market leading spread in the cholesterol lowering category. It was launched in 1999 and was the first food to be enriched with plant sterols in Australia.
Flora pro-activ spreads are made for people who are concerned about their cholesterol. They contain plant sterols, an active ingredient clinically proven to significantly reduce cholesterol absorption. Flora pro-activ is a tasty way to help maintain a healthy heart, as part of a healthy lifestyle. Its cholesterol absorption-lowering power cannot be beaten by any other food.
What are plant sterols?
Plant sterols are found naturally in everyday foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, vegetable oils, seeds, nuts and grains; however they are present in very small amounts. Very large and unrealistic amounts of these foods would be needed to achieve a significant effect on cholesterol levels. Therefore, concentrated amounts of plant sterols are added to Flora pro-activ to make it easy to eat the most effective amount.
On average, Western populations consume a total of 0.3g plant sterols a day from regular foods whereas the optimal amount for a significant cholesterol effect is 2g per day - the amount contained in one rounded tablespoon (25g) of Flora pro-activ.
How effective is Flora pro-activ?
Flora pro-activ is scientifically proven (in over 40 clinical studies) to lower cholesterol absorption by 10% in 3 weeks, plus an additional 5% when moving to a healthy diet.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is an important building block in the structure of cells and the production of hormones. However, when levels in the blood become too high they can cause fatty deposits inside blood vessels and this represents a significant risk to the cardiovascular system.
What causes high cholesterol levels?
While genes play a part, diet also has a strong influence on cholesterol levels. The body can make its own cholesterol in the liver, but blood cholesterol levels increase from too much saturated fat in the diet.
Cholesterol in Australia
Fifty percent of adult Australians have high cholesterol levels (above 5.5mmol/L), largely due to our national diet. There was very little improvement in the national average cholesterol level between 1980 and 2000.
Cholesterol and Food
Plant sterols are the most effective dietary component for lowering cholesterol absorption. On average, the plant sterols in 1 rounded tablespoon (25g) of Flora pro-activ lower cholesterol absorption by 10% in 3 weeks, plus an additional 5% when moving to a healthy diet.
Eating less saturated fat is also important. Saturated fat is found in foods including butter, cream, cheese, full-fat dairy products, fatty and processed meats, biscuits, cakes, pastries, deep-fried takeaways and other fatty snack foods. Replacing saturated fats with healthy unsaturated fats like those in sunflower, canola and olive oil, margarine spreads, nuts and seeds, will also help to achieve and maintain ideal cholesterol levels.
Oats are a nutritious addition to a cholesterol-lowering diet, however their effects are not as great as plant sterols. Oats contain a type of soluble fibre called beta-glucan which lowers cholesterol absorption; however the scientific evidence supports a lowering of only 2-5% for doses up to 3 g/d (found in 3 bowls, or 81g raw oat based cereals).
In effect, this means three bowls of oat based cereal per day only gives half the cholesterol absorption lowering results of one rounded tablespoon (25g) of Flora pro-activ.
Almonds are a heart-healthy food, however their effect on cholesterol is small compared to the plant sterols in Flora pro-activ. Although few scientific studies have examined the effect of almonds alone, 40 g or 30 almonds per day are estimated to lower cholesterol by 3%.
Oily fish is good for the heart however it does not lower cholesterol. The benefit of oily fish is it contains long chain omega-3 fats which have been shown to reduce blood clots, maintain smooth heart rhythm (reduce arrhythmia) and calm inflammation.
It is always recommend that Flora pro-activ is used in conjunction with a healthy diet, including unsaturated oils, whole grains, nuts and fish.
For lowering cholesterol absorption, Flora pro-activ offers the best all round valueNo food lowers cholesterol absorption more than Flora pro-activ and it only costs 50c a day.
When comparing foods to lower cholesterol absorption, you need to consider the amount you need to eat. To get the same amount of plant sterols in 25g of Flora pro-activ, you would need to consume 625ml (3 glasses) of plant sterol milk.
A heart-healthy diet
It is recommended that Flora pro-activ be enjoyed as part of a healthy diet (and an active lifestyle) in order to promote and maintain heart health. The Heart Foundation of Australia says:
Healthy eating is all about enjoying a variety of foods from the different food groups. This means choosing:
mainly plant-based foods - vegetables, fruits and legumes (dried peas, dried beans and lentils) and grain based foods such as wholegrain or wholemeal bread, plain pasta (preferably wholemeal), rice (preferably brown), plain noodles and grains.
moderate amounts of lean meats, skinless poultry, fish and reduced fat dairy products; andmoderate amounts of polyunsaturated or monounsaturated oils and fats.
Interview with Brooke SprottBrooke Sprott is the Accredited Nutritionist for Flora, we asked her about Australians and their Cholesterol levels.Why are Australians making the wrong choices in regards to Cholesterol?
Brooke Sprott: Many people do not regularly have their cholesterol measured. They also might not be aware of the dietary factors that can influence cholesterol. The good news is that there are simple diet changes you can make to help, such as reducing saturated fat by cutting the fat off meat, choosing foods high in soluble fibre like baked beans and choosing foods with plant sterols, like plant sterol margarine spreads.
How are we being "being duped by cholesterol claims"?
Brooke Sprott: There are many heart healthy foods out there, but not all of them have the same effect on cholesterol absorption. Foods like almonds, oats and olive oil are commonly thought to lower cholesterol. These are all healthy foods that are important to include in the diet, but their effects on cholesterol absorption are actually quite varied. For example, you need to eat three bowls of oats a day to give only HALF the results that you would get from eating just 25g (one rounded tablespoon) a day of a plant sterol enriched spread.
50% of Australians have high Cholesterol; do most Australians not even know?
Brooke Sprott: It is estimated that only 1 in 5 Australians think they are affected by cholesterol, even though the proportion who are affected is actually much higher. This is likely to be because people have not had their cholesterol level measured by their doctor.
What choices cause Australians to get high Cholesterol?
Brooke Sprott: Eating too many foods high in saturated fat can increase cholesterol, and as a nation we eat a lot of saturated fat. Saturated fat is found in many foods, such as biscuits, full-fat dairy, some deep fried takeaways and pastries.
How does Flora pro-activ help lower or maintain low Cholesterol?
Brooke Sprott: Flora pro-activ contains plant sterols which are found naturally in small amounts in nuts, seeds and vegetables. Plant sterols are an active ingredient clinically proven to significantly reduce cholesterol absorption. Using 25g of Flora proactiv (the amount you would spread on 3-4 slices of bread) is all you need to lower cholesterol absorption by an average of 10% in 3 weeks, plus an additional 5% when also moving to a healthy diet.
What other lifestyle changes need to be made in conjunction with using Flora pro-activ?
Brooke Sprott: It's important to look at your overall diet and lifestyle when using Flora pro-activ. Other lifestyle changes include exercising regularly, eating more good fats (like a handful of nuts for a snack), limiting bad fats (like replacing butter with margarine spread) and eating two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables each day. If you have any concerns about your cholesterol or heart health, always speak to your GP.
Have your say about Cholesterol at: http://www.femail.com.au/blog/
For more information on Flora or Cholesterol please see: www.foodforcholesterol.com.au