If you’re struggling to lower your cholesterol, there's good news. Eating a new kind of cookie might help.
Fifty-seven-year-old Tom Heath is always on the go but he makes time every day to eat two special cookies because they help lower his cholesterol.
He says, "Within three months my cholesterol dropped about a hundred points, which is quite significant. The doctor was even thrilled to see that.”
Dietitians Wendy Miller and Norman Null created Right Direction cookies. Batch by batch, they tested and perfected a unique recipe with ingredients that fight high cholesterol.
Miller says, "Going from my own personal experience of learning as a mother of four how to hide nutritious things in regular foods, um, I was somewhat of an expert at that."
Research shows that adding high amounts of soluble fiber and plant sterols to your diet works but most people have trouble eating enough of those sorts of things.
Eating a cookie, on the other hand, is easy.
Miller says, "The cookie was a family recipe that was adapted. It’s a delicious cookie and we searched for the best gourmet chocolate chip we could find.”
Two cookies a day contain the equivalent of eating three cups of cooked oatmeal and three cups of sunflower seeds - the amount it takes to lower cholesterol, "and in a cookie," Norman Null says, "that looks, tastes and smells like a cookie.”
Now Tom Heath takes the cookies everywhere.
"I feel much better," he says. "I actually feel more energetic. I find myself more regular, more balanced."
Not everyone can reduce their cholesterol with diet alone and the cookies are not a substitute for prescription medication, but can be used in conjunction with medication. Each cookie has 160 calories and costs about $1. An oatmeal raisin cookie with the same benefits is in the works.
Fast Facts:Half of all U.S. adults have borderline high cholesterol levels. About 20 percent meet the criteria for high total cholesterol.
Elevated cholesterol can sometimes be controlled with diet, exercise and lifestyle changes. When those treatments don’t go far enough, medications may be used.
Some foods contain natural ingredients that help to lower cholesterol.
A company called RD Foods is now offering the first cookie made with ingredients that are designed to lower cholesterol. Eating two of the chocolate chip cookies a day may reduce total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol.
Cholesterol is the fat-like waxy substance in our blood and in the body’s cells. It’s 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 don’t 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.
Cholesterol levels can often be decreased with changes in diet and lifestyle, maintaining a healthy weight and regular physical activity. When these interventions don’t 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 can’t 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. There’s 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. That’s 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 Scripp’s 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 company’s 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.
Web Resources:American Heart Association Web site
For information about the Right Direction cookies™, visit the company's Web site or call 535-3696.
For information on cholesterol:
National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute Web site