A nutrition research program called ‘Love your Food, Love Your Heart, Love Your Family’, which 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.
Dietitians Tracy Schumacher and Professor Clare Collins from the University of Newcastle are recruiting throughout January for the Phase II study, aiming to help those who want to use lifestyle changes to reduce their cardiovascular risks.
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 Love your Food participants. It is simply about eating well across the board.
“We’re adding foods in, rather than kicking foods out,” she said. “There’s nothing 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, dairy products and nuts, while the Portfolio has 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 being low in saturated fats.
“I give people samples to try out – some are quite experimental while others are more reluctant to change their eating habits,” Ms Schumacher says.
“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.”
The research team are seeking participants who have been diagnosed by their GP as having high levels of cholesterol. More information on the study can be obtained by emailing the researchers at FoodHeartFamily@newcastle.edu.au or calling (02) 4921 6259.
HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.