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Cardiovascular Health

 

Can superfruit sea buckthorn lower cholesterol?

Reported January 16, 2009


I have heard a lot about a berry called sea buckthorn that may help to lower cholesterol. What do you know about it and can you recommend any other dietary steps I can take other than cutting down on bad fats?

Sea buckthorn is a shrub that bears prolific amounts of soft, juicy, orange berries packed with antioxidants and super nutrients including high levels of vitamin C, flavonoids and other super nutrients, some of which are believed to have cholesterol-lowering properties.

Scientists have found a way to extract the juice from the berries that appears to keep good proportions of these substances intact. Although in theory this property may make sea buckthorn juice and jam helpful in reducing cholesterol, as the medical herbalist Dr Ann Walker explains, there is no official research to back such claims up and not a huge amount of traditional usage to rely on either. Nor are sea buckthorn products easily available in the UK.

The most important point to make here, and I don't know whether you fall into one of these categories or not, is that no one who has an inherited form of high cholesterol, has had a heart attack or stroke and/or has diabetes or raised blood pressure should start to self-medicate with any herbal and alternative remedies without first seeking their doctor's approval.

For all people in these groups, it is crucial to follow your doctor's advice, which will almost inevitably involve taking statins, a type of drug that blocks the enzymes that play a key role in the production of cholesterol in your liver (most cholesterol in our blood is made in our liver rather than being eaten directly in food, and the more saturated fats you eat,the more cholesterol is made).

If you do not fall into any of the high-risk categories mentioned above, or you have your GP's approval, then you could try a style of eating that has been clinically proven to lower cholesterol by 20 to 30 per cent, a similar scale to that achieved by statins. It is called the Portfolio Eating Plan and involves eating a selection or “portfolio” of foods every day, each of which has its own cholesterol-lowering capabilities. When added together, these have a cumulative effect.

The list of foods includes a daily handful of almonds (23 in total), which contain plenty of heart-friendly antioxidants and fibre, plus a selection of foods that are rich in soluble fibre - including, for instance, porridge oats, apples, pears, baked beans, other pulses, oranges and prunes. Soluble fibre helps to grab “bad” cholesterol in the digestive system and remove it from our bodies in our stools.

Next comes three to four servings of soya foods such as soya milk or yoghurt, tofu, soya beans or a soya burger, because soya protein is believed to lower cholesterol. Finally, around two servings of foods such as Flora Proactive or Benecol spreads or yoghurts are also included. These are fortified with plant stanols, which work in a similar way to soluble fibre.

To these foods each week you add a few servings of oily fish, very lean meat and poultry, wholegrain cereals and plenty of other fruits and vegetables. And, needless to say, cutting down on foods that are rich in saturated fats such as full fat dairy foods, puddings, cakes and biscuits, fast food and pastry-rich foods is also vital.

Other foods that may help to lower cholesterol include avocados, pumpkin seeds, red kidney beans, peas, cashews and peanut butter. All contain the substance beta-sitosterol, which competes with absorption of cholesterol and wins, potentially helping to lower blood cholesterol.