MINNEAPOLIS, MN (January 26, 2022) — High cholesterol, a major risk factor for heart disease, affects nearly 94 million Americans, and 1 in 2 adults over the age of 50. While most doctors are quick to prescribe drugs (like statins) for treatment, a new study points to an effective food-based alternative for the millions of Americans impacted — especially those who may be concerned about medication side effects.
The results of a groundbreaking study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, demonstrated that for many individuals a “food as medicine” approach can be as effective as medications for cholesterol lowering, without the need for drastic lifestyle changes.
“Based on the outcomes seen in our study, using this type of food as medicine approach expands the options for medical professionals and patients,” said Stephen Kopecky, M.D, FACC, cardiologist and Director of the Statin Intolerance Clinic at Mayo Clinic. “Many patients who are unwilling or unable to take statin drugs may be able to help manage their high cholesterol, or hyperlipidemia with a realistic food-based intervention.”
Substituting only a small portion of what hyperlipidemic patients were eating with Step One Foods (a twice per day dosed eating system with products precisely formulated to help lower LDL cholesterol), researchers found rapid and highly significant cholesterol reductions. Ultimately, participants saw an average 9% decrease in LDL (bad) cholesterol within 30 days, with some experiencing more than 30% LDL cholesterol reductions.
This first of its kind free-living multicenter international study was conducted at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota and Richardson Centre at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The study which followed a randomized, double-blind crossover design, was conducted by Soumya Alias, University of Manitoba; Peter J. H. Jones, Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals; Elizabeth Klodas, M.D., founder and Chief Medical Officer of Step One Foods and Stephen L. Kopecky, M.D, Mayo Clinic.
During the intervention phase, participants ate an assortment of whole food based snacks from Step One Foods – ranging from chocolate bars to strawberry-banana smoothies – that were made entirely from real ingredients, such as walnuts, and are known to positively impact cholesterol profiles. These study foods were specifically formulated to deliver a nutrient compendium of whole food fiber, plant sterols, ALA omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants. Participants were instructed to consume these snacks in exchange for similar foods they were consuming already.
The researchers also compared the results of Step One Foods with comparable leading grocery stores brands that are considered “better for you” foods. Each participant consumed these leading brands for 30 days. No cholesterol reductions were seen during this phase of the study.
“Nutrition contributes to 5 of the 7 modifiable risk factors for heart disease, but getting patients to change diet is incredibly challenging,” said Elizabeth Klodas MD, FACC. “This study underscores what’s possible when we succeed. The implications of attaining such a significant cholesterol impact from a small food based intervention are profound. We could change the health of our country in 30 days.”