Putting the kibosh on high cholesterol
These days it seems like everyone knows someone on the Atkins’ diet, a regimen that requires eating fats and proteins instead of sugars and carbohydrates. September is Cholesterol Awareness Month and fatty food is full of cholesterol.
“We’ve gone from 15 to 120 cases a week,” said Paul Redmond, grocery manager at Albertsons in South Lake Tahoe, of Atkins’ products. “It’s doubled or tripled through the summer.”
The animal products integral to the Atkins’ diet — meats, cheeses and eggs — could, according to at least one dietitian, be putting someone at risk of elevated levels of cholesterol and speed the onset of heart disease.
“It is a high-protein diet. A high-fat diet,” said Anita Kobuszewski, senior corporate dietitian for Albertsons. “Trying to reduce cholesterol on the Atkins diet is like getting into a car and driving into a wall.”
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But small-scale studies on the Atkins’ diet have shown that in some cases the rules of nutrition may not apply. People on the diet did not see a rise in the type of cholesterol that increases the risk of heart disease, according to a report posted at the National Institutes of Health Web site and other news reports.
Regardless of who is speaking the truth: People 20 years old or older should have their cholesterol checked every five years.
“I don’t eat a lot of fatty stuff,” said Lisa Riley, 54, of South Lake Tahoe. She had her cholesterol checked this year and found it normal. “I don’t eat margarine. If I do use something, I use butter. If you’re going to have something, you might as well have the real thing. Everything is fine in moderation.”
Kobuszewski, a dietitian for 19 years, agrees with Riley that moderating eating habits is key to keeping the lid on high cholesterol. Kobuszewski said a number more than 200 is cause for heightened awareness.
“Failing to plan is planning to fail,” Kobuszewski said. “If you want to be health wise, you’ve got to do some planning. Eat in moderation, it isn’t very sexy, but it’s the truth.”
She said whether margarine or butter is part of a diet doesn’t make that much difference. Both contain fats that can raise cholesterol.
Mike Ortiz, 20, of South Lake Tahoe, said he’s heard conflicting reports about cholesterol, but is not concerned about it because he’s the type of person who has trouble gaining weight. But thin people are also susceptible to high cholesterol. In general, Ortiz said he eats fresh foods because his girlfriend is a chef.
“I do eat a lot of eggs,” Ortiz said. “Don’t they have cholesterol? I might have high cholesterol.”
Kobuszewski said fish such as tuna, halibut and grouper can help reduce cholesterol because they contain omega-3 fatty acids. Wheat germ can also help reduce cholesterol. Otherwise, she said the answer lies in eating fewer animal products because anything that comes from something with a beating heart has cholesterol.
— Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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