According to a study, eating special-formulated healthy snacks may be as effective in lowering cholesterol than statins.

Researchers asked 54 high-risk individuals to forgo two meals a day. 

Instead they were instructed to swap them for snacks made by one brand of healthy food, including chocolate bars and smoothies. 

Participants — who were instructed to make like-for-like swaps — were told not to make no other radical alterations to their lifestyles but were encouraged to be more active.

After a month, the average person saw their low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels drop by 9 per cent. Four participants experienced drops of as high as 30%, which is similar to statins. 

The study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, was led by the Mayo Clinic.

Snacks were provided by the US company Step One Foods, contained between 110 to 190 calories per serving and delivered a minimum of 5g fiber. These snacks were made of real ingredients such as walnuts or chia seeds.

American cardiologist Dr Elizabeth Klodas (founder of Step One Foods) said that simple diet tips could ‘change the health of our nation in just 30 days.

US researchers claim that even small changes to diet using specially formulated cholesterol busting snacks and smoothies can lower people's bad cholesterol levels as much as taking statins, in some cases

US scientists claim that even tiny changes in diet, including specially prepared cholesterol-busting snacks and smoothies, could reduce people’s bad cholesterol levels by as much as using statins.

This chart shows the individual percentage changes in LDL cholesterol by the 54 study participants when they consumed the Step One Foods substitutes. The average reduction was 9 per cent though three participants had reductions in excess of 30 per cent. It should be noted some participants also had their bad cholesterol levels increase over the 30 day study

The chart below shows how LDL cholesterol changed by each of the 54 participants in the study when they ate Step One Foods replacements. Three participants saw reductions of more than 30%, while the average was 9 percent. It should be noted some participants also had their bad cholesterol levels increase over the 30 day study

“The consequences of achieving such a substantial cholesterol impact through a small food-based treatment are immense,” she said.

Cholesterol (a fatty substance) is essential for normal body functioning.

It can build up too quickly, which could lead to blood clots, blood blockages, stroke, and angina.  

High levels are mainly caused by eating fatty food, not exercising enough, being overweight, smoking and drinking alcohol — but it can also run in the family.

Cholesterol, which is produced in the liver, is transported in the blood via proteins. It is generally divided into two types.

What is statin? 

A group of medications called statins can lower blood levels of low-density cholesterol (LDL).

A high LDL cholesterol level can be dangerous as it could cause a hardening or narrowing of your arteries. This is a major factor in heart disease.  

If you have any questions, your doctor might recommend statins. 

  • A form of cardiovascular disease has been identified in you
  • Your family and personal medical history suggest that you are likely to develop heart disease in the coming 10 years. Lifestyle changes have not decreased this risk. 

Research has suggested around one in every 50 people who take statins for five years will avoid a serious event, such as a heart attack or stroke, as a result. 

In the UK, there are five types of statin that can be prescribed:

  • atorvastatin (Lipitor)
  • fluvastatin (Lescol)
  • pravastatin (Lipostat)
  • rosuvastatin (Crestor)
  • simvastatin (Zocor)

But the controversy surrounding this medication isn’t over. 

Some argue that side effects of statins such as headaches, muscle pain, nausea, liver disease, pancreatitis, vision problems, or memory loss can outweigh the benefits. 

HDL (high-density lipoprotein) is a cholesterol transporter from the cells to liver, where it can be broken down and/or passed as waste. This is known as ‘good cholesterol.

Low-density lipoprotein, also known as ‘bad cholesterol’ (LDL), is a form of cholesterol that is carried to the cells. Excessive amounts build up in the walls of your arteries.

Your bad cholesterol may be raised by eating high amounts of animal fats, such as butter, bacon and coconut oil. 

Statins can be used to lower cholesterol. They are currently being used in the treatment of high cholesterol.

Statins are a common treatment for heart disease.

Some people may experience nausea and muscle pain. 

Co-author Dr Stephen Kopecky, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic, said: ‘Many patients who are unwilling or unable to take statin drugs may be able to help manage their high cholesterol, or hypolipidemia with a realistic food-based intervention.’ 

Cholesterol is an important risk factor for developing heart disease. It is also one of America’s leading killers.

Heart and circulatory diseases cause 160,000 deaths each year in Britain – an average of 460 deaths a day. 

American deaths are even higher with heart disease claiming 659,000 lives each year. 

In the latest study, patients replaced the foods they would normally consume with alternatives formulated to lower their cholesterol.  

After 30 days, the participants were found to have lowered their cholesterol count by an average of 9 per cent. 

Heart UK, a charity that promotes healthy cholesterol, says statins have the potential to reduce LDL cholesterol by up to 30% and even 50% in high doses. 

Statin users who take statins as directed should expect to see their cholesterol levels drop within four weeks. 

The study also had participants try other, non-Step One Food brands of healthier alternatives for another 30 days but the authors said no similar cholesterol reductions were observed. 

There was one problem with the study: Participants did not follow any set eating patterns, so variations could have had an impact on their outcomes.  

Participants had an average LDL of 131 mg/dl, which is borderline high.

Readings of 160–189 mg/dl are high and above 190 mg/dl puts patients in the highest risk category.