Cholesterol Lowering in a Nut Shell

Cholesterol Lowering

Though official recommendations are to first treat high cholesterol with dietary change, many physicians jump right to cholesterol-lowering medications such as statins like Lipitor that can have an array of side effects. As described in my 1-min. video Diet Versus Drugs for High Cholesterol, up to a third of patients prescribed cholesterol-lowering drugs experience adverse reactions. Side effects include liver, muscle, and kidney dysfunction, skin disorders, abdominal pain, nausea, constipation, dizziness, flushing, neurological disorders, and cognitive impairment.

Dietary and lifestyle changes, on the other hand, tend to carry positive side effects. That’s why they are the cornerstones of the American Heart Association guidelines. Recommendations include reduced intake of saturated fat and cholesterol with increased physical activity and intake of dietary fiber. Basically we need to eat fewer animal foods, the only source of cholesterol, and more plants, the only source of fiber. One plant food that may be particularly protective is nuts. See Nuts and Bolts of Cholesterol Lowering for a pooled analysis of studies on nut consumption, cholesterol levels, and risk of death from heart disease.

For more on reducing cholesterol, the #1 risk factor for our #1 cause of death, see:

 For preventing our other top killers, see Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death.

For more on nuts, see:

Michael Greger, M.D.

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Image credit: angels aguirre / Flickr

  • I was wondering if an historical source of fibre for man has been dirt on food. most animals eat some soil with food, this acts to help digestion with birds. For example if you don’t give budgies shell grit to eat with seeds they will often die of blockages in their digestion. grain would usually have had some dirt mixed with it along with some remaining chaff. As food became cleaner maybe this missed dirt in food led to problems with a lack of fibre like with birds. Also dirt would have some minerals to absorb, maybe bacteria or some source of B12 for vegetarians.

  • Jonathan

    While nuts don’t seem to contain any trans-fats or cholesterol, many do seem to be high in saturated fat. Should this be a concern if one eats a good deal of different nuts, or is the saturated fats in nuts not problematic for some reason? Thanks.

    • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

      Great question totally depends! How are you cholesterol numbers and how many do you eat? ​Here is a great video by Dr. Greger that explains the research between nut intake and body weight. Make sure to checkout the bottom of the video’s “Doctors Note” to see more links and information. Lastly, a follow-up to that video is solving the mystery of the missing calories, so it seems nuts are super healthful but if folks have high cholesterol and it’s not coming down I would limit nuts and seeds (1 ounce per day). If still a problem, maybe avoid and see if it helps?