High cholesterol: Nutritionist reveals top prevention tips
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Cholesterol is a waxy substance which occurs naturally in the liver and can also be found in the food and drink we consume. High-fat foods and processed drinks are just two common culprits of high cholesterol, with everything from carbonated liquids to strong alcohol known to increase lipoprotein levels – but which drinks should be avoided to keep cholesterol to a minimum?
While lipoproteins are essential to healthy development, too much ‘bad’ cholesterol, known as low-density lipoproteins (LDL) can obstruct the blood supply from the heart when left to build up.
Balancing moderate levels of both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ cholesterol in the body can be achieved through a healthy diet and active lifestyle.
Avoiding high sugar drinks and heavy alcohol consumption is common knowledge when it comes to making healthier choices, but some drinks pose a greater risk than others.
Alcohol, fizzy drinks and caffeinated beverages have all been linked to high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease, and this is why.
As Christmas approaches, sugary drinks and rich food can quickly replace healthier habits within our diet.
Sugary beverages like sweet fizzy soda and processed fruit juices can increase the risk of developing higher levels of unhealthy fats because of the concentrated amount of sugar in them.
According to the medically accredited website Healthline, studies have proven that sugary beverage drinkers have a 53 percent higher chance of developing high triglycerides (bad cholesterol) than those who rarely drink them.
Having a high sugar intake has been directly linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol levels, all of which can put you at risk of fatal heart diseases such as a heart attack, coronary heart disease or even a stroke.
Are diet drinks better for you?
Low sugar and ‘diet’ alternatives to full-fat fizzy drinks can be equally as damaging to your cholesterol levels, says the British Heart Foundation (BHF).
A study of more than 80,000 women in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study found that those drinking more than two ‘diet’ drinks per day have an increased risk of experiencing an ischaemic stroke by 31 percent.
While the risk of a hemorrhagic stroke was not increased, the overall impact of high consumption of sweetened drinks on LDL cholesterol is concerning.
The BHF also found that blended fruit smoothies can contribute to raised cholesterol when natural sugars become ‘free sugars’ as they are broken down.
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How alcohol affects cholesterol
Alcohol is twice as damaging to cholesterol levels than sugary and caffeinated drinks because it is processed in the liver.
The BHF said: “When you drink alcohol, it’s broken down and rebuilt into triglycerides and cholesterol in the liver.
“If your triglyceride levels become too high, they can build up in the liver, causing fatty liver disease.
“The liver can’t work as well as it should and can’t remove cholesterol from your blood, so your cholesterol levels rise.”
Weight gain, high blood pressure and some types of cancer have all been linked to frequent alcohol consumption, which should be limited to no more than 14 units per week.
Alcohol can still be consumed safely even when dealing with high cholesterol, but you should try to:
- Choose lower strength options – avoid hard spirits
- Alternate alcoholic drinks with soft drinks
- Choose smaller amounts
- Dilute with ice, water and mixers
Research conducted by the University of Cambridge found that in a study of more than 60,000 people, drinking more than 12.5 units of alcohol per week had a significant impact on cholesterol levels.
The BHF reported that drinking more than five pints of average-strength beer of five medium glasses of mid-strength wine per week was found to be associated with the increased overall risk of:
- Heart failure
- Fatal aortic aneurysm
- Coronary heart disease
Can coffee increase cholesterol levels?
Several studies have identified a link between coffee consumption and high cholesterol, triggered by the coffee oils such as cafestol and kahweol, says Healthline.
While coffee oils are naturally occurring, research indicates the body’s ability to metabolise and regulate cholesterol could be affected by cafestol.
Healthline reports: “Researchers concluded that cafestol is the “most potent cholesterol-elevating compound identified in the human diet.”
A four-week study published by Science Daily also found drinking five cups of coffee brewed in a French press every day can increase blood cholesterol levels by six to eight percent.
Adding sugar or sweetener to some of the nations’ favourite hot drinks like tea and coffee could increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.
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