High cholesterol is when you have too much of a fatty substance called cholesterol in your blood. The substance, which is found in all your cells, plays an important role in keeping your brain, nerves and skin healthy. Having too much cholesterol can tip the healthy balance, however.
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This is because cholesterol is also obtained from eating unhealthy foods.
Accumulating cholesterol can cause fatty deposits to develop in your blood vessels.
“Eventually, these deposits grow, making it difficult for enough blood to flow through your arteries,” explains Mayo Clinic.
Sometimes, those deposits can break suddenly and form a clot that causes a heart attack or stroke, the health body warns.
Lowering high cholesterol can therefore help to ward off life-threatening complications.
Fortunately, diet holds the key to lowering high cholesterol, and certain items have been promoted for their cholesterol-beating properties.
One of the most promising is oregano oil, which comes from the leaves and shoots of the oregano plant.
Both human and animal studies have shown that oregano oil may help lower cholesterol.
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In one study, 48 people with mildly high cholesterol were given diet and lifestyle advice to help lower their cholesterol.
Thirty-two participants were also given 0.85 ounces (25 ml) of oregano oil after each meal.
After three months, those given the oregano oil had lower “bad” LDL cholesterol, and higher “good” HDL cholesterol, compared to those just given diet and lifestyle advice.
What is “good” and “bad” cholesterol?
Cholesterol comes in two types – low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL).
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The former has acquired the infamous title “bad” because it builds up in the walls of your arteries, making them hard and narrow – a process that raises your risk of heart disease.
The latter is branded “good” because it picks up excess cholesterol and takes it back to your liver – this reduces your risk of heart disease.
Research suggests carvacrol, the main compound in oregano oil, is responsible for the cholesterol-lowering effect.
The compound was shown to help lower cholesterol in mice that were fed a high-fat diet over 10 weeks.
The mice given carvacrol alongside the high-fat diet had significantly lower cholesterol at the end of the 10 weeks, compared to those that were just given a high-fat diet.
Thymol, another plant compound found in oregano oil, is also thought to lower cholesterol.
Foods to avoid
According to the NHS, the worst culprits for high cholesterol are foods high in saturated fat.
Eating too many foods high in saturated fat can raise the level of cholesterol in your blood.
Foods high in saturated fat include:
- Meat pies
- Sausages and fatty cuts of meat
- Butter, ghee and lard
- Hard cheeses
- Cakes and biscuits
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