Highlights of Tufts University nutrition research: January 2004

Men and Women Respond Differently to Low Fat, Low Cholesterol Diets

It is well known that a diet high in cholesterol is associated with increased risk for coronary heart disease a major cause of death and disability and the recommended therapeutic approach is to follow a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol. Until recently, the effect of this therapeutic diet on cholesterol response in men and women has not been well understood. Jose Ordovas, PhD, a professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, and his colleagues recently examined the difference in cholesterol response by gender. The results of this study were published in The Journal of Nutrition.

Ordovas and his colleagues at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts studied a small group of men over the age of 40 and postmenopausal women with moderately elevated cholesterol levels. For an initial six-week period, the study participants consumed an average American diet (AAD) that was relatively high in total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol similar to diets consumed in the US. This was followed by another six-week period during which participants consumed a Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) diet that restricts total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol intake similar to the National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel II and III. A period of two to seven weeks separated the AAD and TLC diet phases, during which the participants' habitual diets were resumed.

The researchers observed a difference in how men and women reacted to the diets. They found that middle aged men had a more favorable cholesterol response to the TLC diet than post-menopausal women, with a 19 percent drop in men's cholesterol compared to a 12 percent drop in women's. Although the change in cholesterol level was smaller in women than for men, both differences were significant. The researchers are unclear as to why men resp

Contact: Randi Konikoff Beranbaum
Tufts University

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