June 18, 2006 Cholesterol is the fat-like waxy substance in our blood and in the bodys cells. Its used to make hormones and to produce cell membranes, vitamin D and some of the substances needed to digest food. The body makes some cholesterol. The rest comes from the foods we eat, like meats, poultry, eggs, butter, and whole milk. Cholesterol and blood dont mix. The cholesterol is carried in the blood in tiny "packages," called lipoproteins (containing fats on the inside and proteins on the outside). There are two main types of lipoproteins: low-density lipoproteins (LDLs) and high-density lipoproteins (HDLs). LDLs are known as the bad cholesterol because they can lead to a build-up of cholesterol along the walls of the arteries. Eventually, the deposits can form a hard plaque that can clog the arteries. High levels of LDL cholesterol are associated with an increased risk of heart disease and heart attack. HDLs are called the "good" cholesterol because increased levels appear to offer some protection against heart disease. Researchers believe HDL cholesterol may pick up and carry away some of the excess LDL cholesterol to the liver for removal by the body. The American Heart Association recommends all Americans aim for a total cholesterol level of less than 200 mg/dL of blood. A cholesterol level of 200 to 239 mg/dL is considered borderline high. About half of all US adults have borderline high cholesterol levels. High cholesterol levels are defined as a total cholesterol of 240 mg/dL or higher. About 20 percent of American adults meet the criteria for high total cholesterol. Lowering Cholesterol Cholesterol levels can often be decreased with changes in diet and lifestyle, maintaining a healthy weight and regular physical activity. When these interventions dont lower cholesterol to desirable levels, doctors may recommend using medications. The most common type of cholesterol-lowering medication is a class of drugs, called statins. There are some foods that can be eaten to lower cholesterol. Dietary fiber is the edible part of plant materials that cant be broken down or digested by the body. There are two types. Soluble fiber, like oats, beans, peas and psyllium, attract fats, cholesterol and bile and turns them into gel, thus slowing digestion. Consumption of soluble fiber has also been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. Insoluble fiber, like wheat bran and other whole grains, speeds the rate at which foods pass through the stomach and intestines. Another cholesterol-lowering food ingredient is plant sterols. They are structurally similar to cholesterol and are found in many foods, like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, cereals and vegetable oils. Consumption of foods high in plant sterols may lower cholesterol levels by reducing absorption of dietary cholesterol. Using Food to Lower Cholesterol Oatmeal is touted as cholesterol-lowering food. Yet, some critics say a person would have to eat three bowls of oatmeal to get enough soluble fiber to lower cholesterol. A margarine-like spread contains plant stanol esters. However, consumers sometimes have a hard time using the recommended two to three tablespoons a day needed to lower cholesterol. Some experts say it is difficult for consumers to eat that much "margarine." Recently, a company called RD Foods launched what they say is the first cookie on the market with all the soluble fiber and plant sterols needed to lower cholesterol. The product is called Right Direction Cookies™. The chocolate chip cookies are made from an old family recipe that was adapted to use psyllium (a soluble fiber) and plant sterols as ingredients. Each cookie contains 8 grams of soluble fiber and 2.6 grams of plant sterols. And the best part is that they taste good. Theres no aftertaste or unusual flavor sometimes detected with other "health" foods. The cookies are designed for consumers with mild to moderately high cholesterol levels. Two cookies contain the equivalent of eating three cups of cooked oatmeal and three cups of sunflower seeds. Thats about the amount of ingredients needed to lower cholesterol. However, consumers can eat just one a day or more than two. Diet modification and exercise are still recommended as part of the cholesterol-lowering therapy. Some people will still need to take cholesterol-lowering medication. But even then, they may be able to lower the dose of medicine needed to control their cholesterol. Psyllium in the cookies can thicken when swallowed. Thus, the company advises drinking at least 6 to 8 ounces of water when eating a cookie to prevent choking. At the 3rd Annual Scripps Integrative Medicine Conference of Natural Supplements (January 2006), researchers presented the results of a small study (33 subjects) of the cholesterol-lowering cookies. The cholesterol-lowering cookies were associated with significant reductions in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, compared to placebo cookies. The study was funded by RD Foods. Cost of the cookies range from $13.99 for a one-week supply (14 cookies) to $111.92 for a two-month supply (112 cookies). For, information about the Right Direction Cookies™, or to purchase the product, log onto the companys website at http://www.rightdirectioncookies.net, or call (866) 535-3696. The company hopes to launch a cholesterol-lowering oatmeal cookie in the near future. Wendy Miller, M.S., R.D. and Normal Null, R.D. formed the company that makes the cookie. The company, RD Foods, is privately held. AUDIENCE INQUIRY For information about the Right Direction Cookies™, or to purchase the cookies, log onto the companys website at http://www.rightdirectioncookies.net, or call (866) 535-3696. For information on cholesterol: American Heart Association, http://www.americanheart.org, or contact your local chapter National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov BIBLIOGRAPHY "About Cholesterol," Dallas: American Heart Association, downloaded from website (http://www.americanheart.org), May 23, 2006. Cater, Nilo, M.D., et al., "Responsiveness of Plasma Lipids and Lipoproteins to Plant Sterol Esters," American Journal of Cardiology, July 4, 2005, Vol. 91, No. 1A, pp. 24D-28D. Errkila, Arja, Ph.D., and Alice Lichtenstein, D.Sc., "Fiber and Cardiovascular Disease Risk," Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, January-February 2006, Vol. 21, No. 1, pp. 3-8. 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