High cholesterol: Nutritionist reveals top prevention tips
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The rate of people diagnosed with high cholesterol globally is raising at breakneck speed. Although several intervention strategies have been devised to tackle this, the most practical approach remains to control nutritional intake. Studies show that the addition of dietary guar gum may significantly reduce markers for cardiovascular diseases, such as high cholesterol.
Guar gum is a food additive that is widely used as a thickening agent in processed products.
Its thickening capacity is partly owed to its soluble fibre content, which absorbs water and turns into a gel-like consistency, allowing products to bind.
These gel-forming fibres can also normalise the moisture content of stool, by absorbing the excess liquid in people with diarrhoea and sorting stool in individuals with constipation.
Researchers have reviewed various nutritional and functional properties of gum guar, and in doing so have unearthed its therapeutic potential in the treatment of high cholesterol.
When given as a dietary supplement guar gum has been reported to lower plasma cholesterol drastically.
This suggests it may offer protection against certain cardiovascular diseases and act as a therapeutic agent in weight loss.
As a result, demand for guar gum appears to be growing drastically, according to a report in the Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition.
The authors noted: “The demand for guar gum is still growing rapidly because, in addition to its indispensable role in lowering serum cholesterol and glucose levels, it is also considered helpful in weight loss programs.
“The main thrust of therapeutic and medicinal properties lies in the soluble dietary fibre content of guar gum to improve the serum biochemical profile of human and non-human primates.”
It delivers these effects by reducing total serum cholesterol, and triglycerides, increasing the high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels and the management of glycemic indices and obesity, noted the authors.
Once ingested, soluble fibre becomes a thick gel in the intestines which slows the digestion of food in the intestines and traps fats, so they can’t be absorbed.
“Cholesterol and glucose-lowering effects are most often associated with gelling, mucilaginous, and viscous fibres such as guar gum, an edible thickening agent,” explained the authors.
What’s more, data suggest reductions in glucose levels may occur on a long-term basis, which could improve diabetic control.
These effects were explored in early research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, on hyper-cholesterolemic patients given either guar gum or a placebo added to their diet four times per day for six weeks each.
Scientists discovered that haemoglobin A1c decreased significantly during the guar-gum diet, whereas the diurnal glucose profile was unchanged.
What’s more, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol decreased by 20 percent, while no changes were seen in the placebo group.
The authors wrote: “In conclusion, guar gum can improve glycemic control and decrease serum LDL-cholesterol concentrations in mildly hyper-cholesterolemic insulin-dependent diabetic patients.”
The researcher quoted previous findings which established that ingestion of 15 grams of guar gum daily considerably reduces serum concentration of total and LDL cholesterol without attenuation over two years of treatment.
Potential side effects from taking guar gum warrant some level of caution, however.
Studies have demonstrated that the food additive could exacerbate colonic inflammation, following an infectious injury.
Hence, irritable bowel disease patients are cautioned to monitor their intake of guar gum fibre to reduce the severity of intestinal inflammation.
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