Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Cholesterol season

Even if you allow yourself to indulge in (a few) high-cholesterol ice cream cones and burgers every day of the year, your cholesterol level may still be naturally lower in the summer than in winter.
The basis for this intriguing culinary conclusion is the 2004 University of Massachusetts SEASONS (Seasonal Variation in Blood Lipids) Study of 517 healthy men and women ages 20 to 70. The volunteers started out with an average cholesterol level of 213 mg/dl (women) to 222 mg/dl (men). A series of five blood tests during the one-year study showed an average drop of 4 points in the summer for men and 5.4 points for women. People with high cholesterol (above 240 mg/dl) did better, dropping as much as 18 points in the summer.
U. Mass cardiologists say one explanation for the summer downswing may be the normal increase in human blood volume in hot weather. Cholesterol levels reflect the total amount of cholesterol in your bloodstream. With more blood in the stream, the amount of cholesterol per deciliter declines, producing a lower total cholesterol reading. A second possibility is that people tend to eat less and be more active in summer. They lose weight, and weight loss equals lower cholesterol.
The first bit of wisdom from this study is obvious:
Being physically active reduces your cholesterol level. The second is that environment matters. In other words, if you’re planning to start a new cholesterol-buster diet, you may just do better to start during the cool weather, when your efforts may lower your total cholesterol as much as 12 points over a reasonable period of time, say, six months. Then when your doctor runs a follow-up test the following summer, you’ll get the added benefit of the seasonal slip to make you feel really, really good about how well you’re doing.

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