But how much can diet alone do? Quite a bit, as it turns out.
In particular, a chemically-modified wheat fiber known as resistant starch significantly lowered the cholesterol levels and reduced the risk of metabolic syndrome in a recent study by researchers at South Dakota State University.
Participants who had preexisting metabolic syndrome experienced a decrease in all types of cholesterol.
Moul Dey, associate professor of health and nutritional sciences, focuses her research on the use of wheat fiber to lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease. She and Bonnie Specker, director of the E. A. Martin Endowed Program in Human Nutrition, studied the effect of resistant starch on two Hutterite colonies in eastern South Dakota.
After 26 weeks, participants who had preexisting metabolic syndrome experienced a decrease in all types of cholesterol. High blood pressure, high levels of blood triglycerides and cholesterol, low levels of good cholesterol, high fasting glucose, and obesity are the hallmarks of metabolic syndrome.
“The non-HDL types of cholesterols went down significantly, but we also saw a lowering of good HDL cholesterol,” said Dey. Recently published research has suggested that lowering bad cholesterol is more beneficial to heart health than increasing good cholesterol.
Everyone in the study had decreases in body fat and increased lean body mass — both those with metabolic syndrome and those who were healthy. No one really lost weight, and there was no change in body mass index (BMI) observed during the study.
Fewer than three percent of Americans meet the recommended intake of fiber. Since most Western-style diets include wheat-based foods, the authors suggest that using resistant starch enriched wheat flour for regular flour could be an effective way to increase fiber intake among Americans, thereby promoting a healthier lifestyle.
The study is published in Molecular Food and Nutrition Research.