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Type of Fat Affects Cholesterol Most

April 12, 1990|JEAN CARPER | Carper is a medical and nutrition writer and the author of 15 books, including "The Food Pharmacy." and

Attention, cholesterol worriers. It's not just how much fat but the type of fat you eat that pushes blood cholesterol up or down.

In a recent study, 20 men ages 27 to 47 with high cholesterol ate three different high-fat diets--all derived 40% of calories from fat. Yet on two of the high-fat diets cholesterol went down; on one it stayed up.

The culprit: saturated fat, mainly butterfat, says study director Jean T. Snook, of Ohio State University. The lone villain in raising cholesterol was saturated animal and dairy fat. The other two diets, which did not boost cholesterol, were high in vegetable oils--either polyunsaturated fats, such as corn oil, or monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil. These diets also were low in saturated fat--8% of calories.

On the high-fat vegetable-oil diets, cholesterol plummeted 16% to 21%. When men returned to the high-butter diets, their cholesterol soared again.

This does not mean you should eat a high-fat diet, says Snook; that has other dangers. Her point is that to reduce cholesterol, you must cut down specifically on saturated animal-type fat, not just on all fats.

Eat foods high in calcium to prevent colon cancer. That's what some experts are increasingly urging, based on strong new evidence.

Dr. Cedric Garland, a researcher at the University of California at San Diego, recently estimated that eating 1,200 to 1,400 milligrams of calcium per day might prevent an astounding 65% to 75% of colon cancers. That would require doubling or tripling present calcium intakes, which average 700 milligrams daily for middle-aged men and 450 milligrams for middle-aged women.

New research shows that calcium definitely suppresses the proliferation of surface cells on the inner lining of the colon. Such rapid cell growth is a sign of developing cancer.

For example, Dr. Michael Wargovich, of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, gave varying doses of calcium to high-risk patients who already have polyps, small precancerous growths in the colon. He found that 1,500 milligrams of calcium per day for three months suppressed precancerous cell growth by 23%. In another test, 2,000 milligrams of calcium daily for a month reduced the dangerous cell growth 30%.

Garland says food is the most reliable calcium source--a cup of skim milk has 300 milligrams; a cup of nonfat yogurt, 450 milligrams.

Sugar helps put you to sleep but the artificial sweetener aspartame (Nutrasweet) does not, according to new research. At least if you're a woman.

Previous studies show that eating carbohydrates, including sugar, can alter mood. Contrary to popular belief, carbohydrates generally make people feel more relaxed, sleepy and, in some cases, less depressed. A Kansas State University researcher wanted to know if aspartame did the same thing.

In the new study, 120 young women at different times drank 12 ounces of water or Kool-Aid sweetened with either sugar or aspartame. Their moods were observed and measured by psychological tests. According to Dr. Elizabeth Pivonka, the women's moods did not change after drinking water or aspartame-sweetened Kool-Aid. However, after drinking the sugary Kool-Aid, the women tended to be less alert and more sleepy.

This does not mean aspartame will keep you awake, but it apparently does not affect brain chemistry, making you drowsy the way sugar can.

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