People's Pharmacy

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY

December 02, 2005

A man claimed in your column that he was careful about his diet but still had a cholesterol level of 240. There is one sure thing that will lower his cholesterol without using unnatural, expensive drugs that have side effects. If he eliminates all meat and dairy products, he could get his cholesterol under control and reduce the risk of other diseases like cancer.

For many people, a vegetarian diet can indeed lower cholesterol.

One study examined a "dietary portfolio" that used soy protein and nuts instead of meat and included foods rich in plant sterols and soluble fiber. Following such a diet lowered most people's cholesterol about as much as the drug lovastatin (Current Atherosclerosis Reports, November 2004).

In another study, researchers substituted protein, half of it from plant sources, for some of the carbohydrate in a diet to lower blood pressure. People eating that diet were able to lower blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides significantly (Journal of the American Medical Association, Nov. 16, 2005).

Not everyone can control cholesterol with diet alone. In some cases, blood fats rise on a vegetarian diet. Since the body makes cholesterol, eliminating it from the diet may actually increase internal production of cholesterol. In such cases, people may need another intervention in addition to diet.

I would like to try pomegranate juice for its health benefits. Will it interact with Lipitor?

Pomegranate juice can lower blood pressure and delay atherosclerosis. But it interacts with drugs much as grapefruit juice does (Drug Metabolism and Disposition, May 2005). Grapefruit juice can raise blood levels of some cholesterol-lowering drugs, including Lipitor, Zocor and Mevacor (lovastatin), and increase the risk of side effects.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019, or e-mail them via their Web site: peoplespharmacy.org.

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