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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Is high cholesterol only related to bad food choices?

    Is there a genetic predisposition to high cholesterol or is developing high cholesterol only induced by eating the wrong foods?
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    Nicole Senior

    Dietitian, Nutritionist

    I'm an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist, consultant, author, speaker and food and health enthusiast. I love talking and writing about food and health.(please note, … View Profile

    You can have a genetic predisposition to having high cholesterol and there's not much you can do to change your genes but there's a lot you can do to counteract the effect of unhelpful genes. Of course the fact that 1 in 2 adults have high cholesterol speaks to wider environmental influences and eating habits and rising obesity rates are key determinants.

    In my experience, you don't have to have an appalling diet with fast food thrice daily for your cholesterol to get away from you, but simply be unaware of the basics of the diet-cholesterol relationship. For example, a low fat diet doesn't help - you need a diet moderate in fat in which good fats from oils, margarines, nuts and seeds predominate. The low-fat revolution has much to answer for!  

    Most Australians eat too much saturated fats and don't eat enough polunsaturated fats (found in sunflower oil, walnuts, oily fish)- the best kind for cholesterol and your heart. As well as getting your fats right, you also need to eat your quota of cholesterol-busting foods rich in soluble fibre such as wholegrains, legumes, vegetables and fruits.

    Our disappointing cholesterol stats are a symptom wider dietary shortcomings, the main one being eating too many energy-dense, nutrient-poor ‘extras’ (biscuits, cakes, soft drinks) and not enough ‘core’ foods from the five food groups (vegetables, grains, fruits, dairy etc).

    If you want more detailed information about how to combat bad genes with the best nutritional science can offer, plus delicious food ideas and recipes, check out my book Eat to Beat Cholesterol available online at https://www.greatideas.net.au/product_info.php?products_id=253

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    Specializing in weight reduction, diabetes and cholesterol management, high blood pressure, GIT disorders - including IBS, coeliac disease, food intolerance and food chemical sensitivity, childhood … View Profile

    No, it's not. High cholesterol can also be genetic. The fact is that one in two adults has high cholesterol. Even some people that have a healthy diet may have high cholesterol. The best way that you can mange it through diet is by lowering your saturated fats, including more poly and monounsaturated fats, including lots of soluble fibre as well as plant sterols.

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    Stuart Donaldson

    Exercise Physiologist

    Accredited Exercise Physiologist with ESSA providing services to clients in the Hervey Bay region, including entitled DVA clients (Entitled Department of Veterans' Affairs clients may … View Profile

    Not necessarily. There are a number of factors that come into play.
    1) Genetics - some people, even people who eat healthy, are at a healthy weight and exercise regularly can have high cholesterol.
    2) Diet - a diet high in saturated fats can lead to high cholesterol.
    3) Body weight/fat - carrying excess body fat can (and most likely will) lead to higher levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol.
    4) Inactivity - if you do not exercise regularly, then you will potentially have higher levels of LDL cholesterol, and lower levels of HDL (good cholesterol). Aerobic exercise such walking, swimming and cycling can increase HDL cholesterol levels, which act to clear the bad cholesterol from the blood.

    As you can see, 3 of these 4 factors are what we classify as ‘modifiable’, ie you can change them. If you are doing everything you can to eat well, exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight range, only then can you truly attribue high cholesterol to genetics. In my experience, almost every person with high cholesterol can improve in one or more of these categories.

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