Cardiovascular Disease and Food

If you have high cholesterol also see healthy eating for high cholesterol.

To Lower LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol
– Decrease total fats in diet
– Decrease cholesterol in diet
– Increase essential fatty acids
– Increase fibre (especially oats and psyllium husk)
– Increase complex carbohydrates
– Decrease caffeine and nicotine
– Supplement nutrients: Vitamin B3, B6, B12, C; chromium; EPA & GLA; garlic; red rice yeast.

To Increase HDL ‘good’ cholesterol
– Get regular aerobic exercise
– Do not smoke
– Decrease body weight
– Supplement nutrients: essential fatty acids; niacin; EPA, fibre and L-carnitine.

Risks of CVD include high blood pressure, high cholesterol (especially high LDL levels), high triglyceride levels, and obesity, as well as some cases of diabetes. High fat consumption, low fibre intake, high cholesterol and excess sodium intake are influential nutritional risks. Non-diet risks include smoking, stress and lack of exercise. Proper diet alone can decrease cholesterol levels by 30% or more. It is clear that a diet high in saturated fats and cholesterol leads to increased blood cholesterol levels and increased atherosclerosis. It takes dedication, and sometimes a complete lifestyle change, to make these changes.

The primary dietary focus for preventing CVD is reducing fat intake. The diet should be low in fat and particularly low in:
– saturated fats (especially animal fats, including dairy)
– hydrogenated/partially hydrogenated fats (margarine and most packaged refined foods), and
– poor quality oils, especially when heated in cooking.

Fat intake should be reduced to a maximum of 20% of total calories. This is not easy because it includes all fried foods, meats,dairy products, eggs, nuts, and seeds, which also clearly reduces protein intake. Supplementing with essential fatty acids,and using good-quality cold-pressed vegetable oils (poly/monounsaturated); and avoidance of many of the less healthy fats is best, such as refined cooking oils and hydrogenated fats like margarine.

Particularly helpful oils are contained in deep sea cold water fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, and herring. These contain EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (dicosahexaenoic acid), which have a positive effect on lowering cholesterol and triglycerides. Consuming these oily fish two or three times a week has been proven be beneficial.

To prevent atherosclerosis, a diet low in cholesterol and high in fibre is recommended. Fibre reduces CVD risk by binding cholesterol and fats and passing them out of the body, therefore reducing their absorption and subsequently decreasing blood cholesterol and LDL. Increased fibre levels can also help to reduce blood pressure levels. Oats has been shown to help reduce cholestrol levels, and reduce weight in those who suffer from obesity.

In addition, a low-salt and low-sugar diet is also suggested. Excess sugar causes an increase in calories, weight, and blood fats, and is a direct risk factor in CVD. More complex carbohydrates, including whole grain and vegetable foods, are important for CVD prevention.

Dietary Suggestions to Reduce CVD Risk
– Eat more fruits and vegetables, and leave skin on.
– Eat more whole grains, legumes and beans.
– Fat intake no more than 25% of the diet.
– Reduce cholesterol intake to less than 300 mg per day.
– Reduce consumption of eggs to about three per week.
– Minimise use of whole milk and dairy products.
– Avoid red meats, eliminate all cured/processed meats, chicken can be eaten occassionally but without skin.
– Eat more deep sea cold water fish.
– Use fresh, cold-pressed oils, such as olive or flaxseed, to provide the essential fatty acids, and do not heat oils.
– Replace snacks with low fat foods such as corn thins, rice cakes, Finn crisp or ryvita.
– Add oat bran to cereals and use whole grain cereals in place of sugary ones, such as oats.
– Substitute ice-cream for fruit juice ices.
– Use low-fat cheeses such as cottage cheese or ricotta.
– Increase salads in summer and veggie soups in winter.
– Consume cookies and treats with no saturated fats and lower/no sugar content, sweeteners can include dried fruit, xylitol or stevia, or fruit-juice-sweetened sweets.
– Include garlic in your food, it has a cholesterol lowering effect, as do onions, ginger and cayenne pepper.
– Soybeans and soy products such as tofu, tempeh, miso and soy lecithin may have a positive effect on cholesterol and atherosclerosis; and are low in fat and high in protein.
– Millet and buckwheat, okra, asparagus, apples and bananas, red rice yeast, and flaxseed (linseed) oil may reduce cholesterol.
– Ground flaxseeds are a good source of soluble fibre and essential oils and may help reduce blood fat levels and fatty deposits.

Vitamin B2 – Riboflavin

Excess B2 results in yellow-green urine. involved in energy production.

Deficiency Signs and Symptoms
Cracking lips, sores in corner of mouth, inflamed tongue, visual disturbances – sensitive to light, loss of visual acuity, cataracts, burning and itching eyes, lips, mouth, tongue. Disorders of mucous membranes. Anaemia and seborrhoeic dermatitis.
naturopathic Dose
Maintenance 5 – 10 mg daily
Main Uses

Migraine – prevention, based on theory thatmigraines are caused by reduced energy production within mitochondria of cerebral blood vessels.
Cataracts – reduced generation of glutathione enhances formation
Sickle cell anaemia – increases iron status and glutathione levels.

No toxicity.

Vitamin B3 – Niacin

Can be converted from the amino acid tryptophan. Involved in energy production, fat, cholesterol and carbohydrate metabolism and the manufacture of compounds such as sex and adrenal hormones.

Deficiency Signs and Symptoms
Pellagra – dermatitis, dementia, diarrhoea, death

Naturopathic Dose
Maintenance 100 mg taken with meals.

Main Uses

Energy production, regulates blood sugar, antioxidant, liver detox, reduces cholesterol.
Lowers blood lipids – niacin works better, in some instances, than cholesterol lowering pharmaceuticals.
Diabetes – used under supervision instead of autoimmune drugs (prednisone), safer and effectivAe.
Arthritis – rheumatoid and osteoarthritis, high dose have been proven useful.

Skin flushing 20 – 30 min after, irritating factor not dangerous.
Gastric irritation, nausea, liver damage – avoid time release tablets.
Caution in liver damage, or elevated liver enzymes, gout or peptic ulcer.
In diabetes use under supervision of a practitioner because of impaired glucose tolerance.
Liver function tests and cholesterol tests advised during high doses.

Vitamin B5 – Pantothenic Acid

In Greek 'pantos' means 'everywhere'. Utilised in the manufacture of coenzyme A (CoA) and acyl carrier protein (ACP), conversion of fats and CHO for energy production and the manufacture of adrenal hormones and red blood cells. (Murray 2001)

Deficiency Signs and Symptoms
Fatigue, burning foot syndrome, numbness or shooting pain.

Naturopathic Dosage Range
Will vary depending on what is being treated, adaquate maintenance dose is 100 mg per dose

Main Uses
Adrenal support – known as the anti stress vitamin.
Rheumatoid arthritis – often there are lower levels the worse the symptoms are, helps to alleviation of pain.
High cholesterol and triglycerides – reduces levels, and lipid lowering effect in diabetics.

No side effects reported

Vitamin B6 – Pyridoxine

Necessary for more than 60 enzymes in the body. Multiplication of cells, so important during pregnancy, and for immune system, mucous membranes, skin, and red blood cells. Manufacture of amino acid neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopamine, melatonin).

Deficiency Signs and Symptoms
Depression, convulsions (especially in children), anaemia, impaired nerve function, cracking of the lips and tongue, seborrhoea or eczema.
Antagonists: hydrazine dyes (FD&C yellow), oral contraceptives, alcohol, excessive protein intake.

Naturopathic Dosage Range
50 – 100 mg

Main Uses
PMS – reduces symptoms of breast tenderness, depression, bloating and irritability.
Carpal tunnel syndrome – commonly a deficiency.
Depression – shown to be low in depressed states, essential for neurotransmitter manufacture.
Morning sickness – reduces nausea and vomiting.
Autism – as supplement, not cure, helps brain chemistry, better if used with magnesium.
Atherosclerosis – deficiency shows increased homocysteine levels, inhibits platelet aggrigation.
Diabetes – to prevent complications.
Immune enhancement – low in AIDS even though consuming enough in diet, correlated to decreased immune function. 

Some toxicity in large doses for long periods. More than 2000 mg can result in nerve toxicity.
Safest at 50 mg per day.

Vitamin B12 – Cobalamin

Works closely with folic acid in the body for many processes including synthesis of DNA, red blood cells and the myelin sheath. The stomach secretes intrinsic factor (IF) to absorb the small amounts of B12 found in food.


Stored (even though water soluble), in liver kidney and body tissues. May take 5 – 6 years before deficiency signs show due to low diet intake, or lack of IF. Pernicious anaemia, impaired nerve function causing numbness, pins and needles or burning, depression in the elderly. Smooth, red tongue and diarrhoea. Common in vegans. (Murray 2001)

Vegetarians 100 mcg daily

Main Uses
AIDS – deficiency often present, in vitro B12 reduces HIV replication.
Impaired mental function – senility, Alzheimer’s, where there is deficiency.
Asthma – improvement in symptoms where related to sulphite sensitivity.
Depression – increase in deficiency especially in elderly. (Braun and Cohen 2005)
Low sperm count – because reduced cellular replication, also improves sperm motility.
Multiple sclerosis – usually low, demylination of nerve fibres.
Tinnitis – stabilises neural activity.

No side effects reported.