Research Study - Food Heart Family

Research program offers heart healthy foods to lower cholesterol

UON dietitians Tracy Schumacher and Professor Clare Collins will be recruiting early this year for Phase II of a study aiming to help those who want to use lifestyle changes to reduce their cardiovascular risks.

The study, which first helped improve the diets of families with a history of heart disease or stroke, is now set to focus on individuals with high cholesterol levels.

The research team are seeking participants who have been diagnosed by their GP as having high levels of cholesterol.

It comes as doctors express concern that a number of patients have refrained from taking statin medication to reduce cholesterol levels in the wake of negative publicity.

Tracy Schumacher says there is no magic bullet or one-size-fits-all strategy in the intervention offered to participants. It is simply about eating well across the board.

“We’re adding foods in, rather than kicking foods out,” she said. “No foods are off limits but there are certainly limits to the quantity you can eat.”

Research has shown that the ‘Mediterranean’ and ‘Portfolio’ diets are effective in maintaining low cholesterol. The former includes fruit and vegetables, grain, fish that are rich in Omega 3, nuts and reduced fat dairy products, while the Portfolio has vegetable proteins, margarine enriched with plant sterols, oats, barley and eggplant, all high in soluble fibre.

Other heart healthy foods include legumes, kidney beans, chickpeas and soy products which are also favoured for their mix of fibres, protein and low energy contents.

“From the family-based study we’re seeing people being more mindful of what they put on their plates and they’ve also increased the variety of nutritious foods. We can start seeing better cholesterol results in six weeks, so that’s how long we want people to follow the program for.”

More information on the study can be obtained by emailing the researchers at FoodHeartFamily@newcastle.edu.au or calling 02 4921 6259.

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