Q: Is the Portfolio Diet worth trying for high cholesterol?
A: The Portfolio Diet—along with exercise and losing excess weight—can help lower cholesterol, suggests the editorial board of the University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter. Developed by researchers at the University of Toronto, the Portfolio Eating Plan focuses on several cholesterol-lowering foods and food components:
- plant sterols (from enriched margarine)
- soluble fibers (from oats, barley, psyllium, eggplant and okra)
- soy protein (from soy milk, tofu and soy-based meat substitutes)
A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association in August 2011, included 345 people with high cholesterol. Those who followed the Portfolio Plan reduced their LDL ("bad") cholesterol by about 13 percent over six months, compared to a drop of only 3 percent in those on a low-saturated-fat control diet. These results, however, were more modest than in past research, which found LDL reductions up to 30 percent.
Even if you don't follow the plan in its entirety, you can still benefit by simply substituting some Portfolio foods for your usual foods, such as a soy burger in place of a hamburger, nuts instead of chips, and sterol-enriched margarine instead of butter.
Though the diet originally was strictly vegetarian, you don't need to eliminate all animal foods to get results. More recent studies, with positive results, have included some low-fat dairy and lean meat.
Still, even under the best circumstances, the diet isn't as effective as the stronger statins for lowering cholesterol. But if you're on a statin, it may allow you—with your doctor's okay—to take a lower dose.
Adapted from The University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter (January 2012)