New research from the University of Reading suggests that making small changes to your diet could have a significant effect on your cholesterol, helping you maintain healthy levels. The study is one of the largest of its kind, looking at the effects of saturated and unsaturated fats not only on cholesterol levels but also on blood pressure, the risk of heart disease, and overall blood vessel health. The researchers concluded that reducing consumption of saturated fats and increasing dietary intake of unsaturated fats could have a number of health benefits, including lowering cholesterol.
The Dangers of High Cholesterol
It’s estimated that more than half of all UK adults have high cholesterol – classified as a cholesterol level higher than 5mmol/L – but what does this really mean for your health? If you have high cholesterol, you’re at increased risk of atherosclerosis, which is when the arteries become blocked by fatty substances and reduce blood flow around the body. If blood flow is severely limited or restricted, it can contribute to coronary-related conditions including heart disease and heart attacks.
The Importance of a Healthy Diet
According to the University of Reading research, lowering cholesterol levels can be achieved through adopting and maintaining a healthy diet that’s high in ‘good’ fats (unsaturated fats) and low in ‘bad’ fats (saturated fats). The study found that swapping saturated fats for unsaturated fats could reduce bad cholesterol levels by up to 14 percent on average. Try switching from high fat butters to low fat spreads, and incorporating more nuts, avocados, seeds, and oily fish like sardines into your diet.
The British Heart Foundation claims that exercise can also be effective at lowering cholesterol, and that combining a good, sensible diet with a healthy lifestyle is key when it comes to reducing risk. While scientists don’t fully understand the extent to which exercise can play a role in managing cholesterol, it is believed that exercising at home or at the gym can increase ‘good’ cholesterol levels in the body, and reduce the body’s ability to absorb ‘bad’ cholesterol from the blood.
Good and Bad Fats
Despite a government drive to cut down on the amount of saturated fat being consumed, figures suggest that, as a nation, we’re still eating too many ‘bad’ fats – fatty meats, pastries, and cheeses, for example – and not enough ‘good’ fats. It is hoped that this new research by the University of Reading will be instrumental in emphasising and promoting the importance of adhering to a healthy diet by outlining how even small dietary changes can have huge impacts on health and overall wellbeing.