The Portfolio Diet And Cholesterol
Chester J. Zelasko, Ph.D. | December 9, 2003

One of the questions we're asked most frequently at Better Life Unlimited is how to lower cholesterol levels without taking medications. Our response in the past would include losing weight, exercising more, eating more fruits and vegetables, and lowering intake of saturated fat. We still recommend those changes, but recent research may expand some of those dietary recommendations.

Researchers in Canada have published a study in which they compared a conventional low-fat diet, a low-fat diet plus a statin medication, and a diet that was lower in fat and included several specific foods (1). Those foods include almonds, plant sterols, fiber, and soy protein; it was termed the Portfolio Diet. The results of the study were very surprising: the diet plus statin and the Portfolio Diet both resulted in a similar 30% decrease in two major indicators of heart disease, LDL-cholesterol and C-reactive protein.

You may be wondering if the Portfolio Diet is easy to follow. The researchers took great pains to use foods that are commonly available from the typical supermarket, don't take hours of preparation, and are palatable. The amounts of each type of food a person should eat daily can be found in the following table:

Quantities for a diet of 2,000 calories per day

Almonds 30 grams
Viscous/soluble fiber 20 grams
Soy protein 50 grams
Plant sterols 2 grams

The subjects still ate a reduced-fat diet, but the Portfolio Diet provided enough healthy fats to make food taste good. All foods are readily available in a variety of forms with the exception of the plant sterols. For right now, those can be found only in margarines such as BenecolĀ®.

Although this was a short-term study that lasted only one month, the results were outstanding from a dietary perspective--decreases of that magnitude in LDL cholesterol are generally seen only with medications. While there's more research to be done, this study provides hope that lifestyle changes alone may be enough to lower cholesterol levels and perhaps reduce the risk of heart disease. With your physician's approval, it might be just the thing you need to do to avoid taking medications. You'll be hearing more from Better Life Unlimited about the Portfolio Diet as more information becomes available.


  1. Jenkins DJ, et al. Effects of a dietary portfolio of cholesterol-lowering foods vs. lovastatin on serum lipids and C-reactive protein. JAMA. 2003 Jul 23;290(4):502-10.
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