Changes to diet bring impressive health changes: Jennifer’s story
As dietitians, we love to celebrate successful results with all our patients. Whether you achieve a small goal or a big goal, it’s worth commemorating those moments when the hard work pays off. Jennifer was one of our patients with an impressive story.
Jennifer is a 54-year-old female who was referred to us for dietary advice to help lower her cholesterol. Jennifer’s weight was 72.4 kg and her Body Mass Index (BMI) was 26.5; slightly overweight. Her cholesterol was 8.9 mmol/L (healthy range 3.9-5.5 mmol/L) before starting medication (Crestor).
After her doctor tested the results of her cholesterol medication, she was pleased to see her cholesterol had dropped to 5.6 mmol/L within 2-3 months.
However, Jennifer (who has a history of allergies) wasn’t reacting well to being on Crestor. She was experiencing redness and itchy skin, as well as muscle aches and pains. After stopping the medication, her cholesterol once again jumped above the healthy range. She was looking for alternative options.
Jennifer’s typical day on a plate
- Breakfast: Bowl of All Bran cereal with milk and a flat white
- Lunch: 2 poached eggs on wholemeal toast and another flat white
- Dinner: Chicken with vegetables and gravy
- Snacks during the day: 10 almonds + banana + 2 scotch fingers + yoghurt
Jennifer’s diet was not especially unhealthy, however, there was a distinct lack of cholesterol-lowering foods, also known as portfolio foods.
The portfolio diet was developed by Dr David Jenkins at the University of Toronto. It’s a dietary regime consisting of a combination of specific plant foods (nuts, plant sterols, soy foods and viscous fibre) which have been shown to lower cholesterol on par with first-generation statins.
Dr Jenkins’s research has shown marked improvements in cholesterol within time periods as short as one month. Statins are expected to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol by 25-35%. One of Dr Jenkins 2005 studies showed adherence to a strict portfolio diet lowered LDL cholesterol by 29.6%.
Jennifer was advised to adopt a plant-based dietary pattern and include all four portfolio foods to recommended doses. Some of the major improvements made to Jennifer’s diet included:
- Increase in viscous fibre—including legumes and whole grains daily as well as increasing her vegetable intake
- A handful of nuts daily
- Cholesterol-lowering Weet-Bix for breakfast for plant sterols
- Switching to soy milk
- Learning to love tofu
- Using extra virgin olive oil daily
- Keeping a food diary and tracking her portfolio foods
- Regular monitoring with her dietitian and
- Maintaining steps at or above 10,000 per day
Jennifer retested three months later and was thrilled with her newest blood work. Her results even astonished her GP!
- Cholesterol drop to 5.5 mmol/L and no side effects!
- Weight loss (now maintaining her weight around 67-68 kg (BMI 25)
- ‘enjoying her nuts’
- No more acid reflux
- Increase in energy levels
- No cravings for sugar
- ‘loves eating tofu’
- ‘finding the changes really easy’
- Compliments on how healthy she is looking
Is it time you started making headway on your health goals? Book yourself in to see a dietitian today. Your story could be next!
Sue Radd is an Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian and one of Australia’s leading nutritionists and health communicators. Her most recent book Food as Medicine: Eating for Your Best Health received the Gourmand World Cookbook Award for Best Health and Nutrition Book in the world for 2016.