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No need to nag: study finds doctors’ nutrition advice hits home early

Toronto, August 23, 2011

Hearing dietary advice twice is enough for patients to get the significant benefits of lower cholesterol, according to a new study led by doctors at St. Michael’s Hospital and the University of Toronto.

“We’re seeing more and more people want to take their health into their own hands,” said Dr. David Jenkins, the lead author of the study and director of the hospital’s Risk Factor Modification Centre. Dr. Jenkins is also Canada’s Research Chair in Nutrition and Metabolism at U of T’s Department of Nutritional Sciences.

Jenkins and his team measured participant’s reduction in LDL or “bad” cholesterol after dietary advice was given at one of two levels of intensity – two times in six months (“routine”) or seven times in six months (“intensive”).

Both groups were asked to eat a combination of foods with cholesterol lowering properties, known as a dietary portfolio. This included the four portfolio components: soy proteins, vicious or “sticky” fibres, nuts and plant sterols.

They found that regardless of which group participants were assigned to, both groups lowered their LDL cholesterol almost the exact same amount — 13.1 per cent for routine and 13.8 per cent for intensive.

Jenkins says the findings are encouraging because it is a “great burden off the medical system if people are equipped to look after themselves. Doctors can do a better job if there are fewer patients to see.”

The goal was to look at the effect of dietary advice in real-world conditions, the authors noted in the paper.

Participant sessions with a dietitian involved a 40 to 60 minute check-in and diet monitoring. Participants were asked to bring in a seven-day diet record which was analyzed by a dietitian who advised ways to improve their diet.

A control group did not receive any dietary advice during the six month period and was placed on a different, although still healthy low-saturated fat diet but with no portfolio components. Their cholesterol was lowered by three per cent.

The study included 345 participants and took place in academic centres across Canada (Quebec City, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver). The results appear in the current issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Dr. Jenkins developed the glycemic index and is one of Canada’s foremost nutrition experts.

About St. Michael’s

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in more than 23 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, and care of the homeless are among the Hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Center, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael’s Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.

About University of Toronto

Established in 1827, the University of Toronto has assembled one of the strongest research and teaching faculties in North America, presenting top students at all levels with an intellectual environment unmatched in breadth and depth on any other Canadian campus. U of T faculty co-author more research articles than their colleagues at any university in the US or Canada other than Harvard. As a measure of impact, U of T consistently ranks alongside the top five U.S. universities whose discoveries are most often cited by other researchers around the world. The U of T faculty are also widely recognized for their teaching strengths and commitment to graduate supervision.

Media Contact

For more information or to speak to Dr. Jenkins, contact:

Paul Cantin
Associate Director, Strategic Communications
University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine
416-978-2890
paul.cantin@utoronto.ca