The incidence of high cholesterol among young Filipino adults is rising.
Today, one in two adult Filipinos has borderline high cholesterol, according to the latest survey conducted by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI), compared to one in three in 2000.
The Cleveland Clinic reported that high cholesterol, depending on which blood vessels are narrowed or blocked, increases the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, peripheral arterial disease, Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.
The recent report from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed that heart disease is still the country’s no. 1 cause of death.
While it’s true that high cholesterol can be inherited, it is often a result of unhealthy lifestyle choices. Perhaps there’s too much longganisa or bacon on your breakfast plate, extra helping of rice per meal, many eat-all-you-can weekends, and sisig and crispy pata with beer on nights out with friends or office mates.
The good news is, high cholesterol can be modified, treated and controlled. Studies have shown that 70 grams of oats per day for 30 days can reduce cholesterol.
In 2004, Quaker launched the first-ever Quaker Smart Heart Challenge in the Philippines to demonstrate how oatmeal can reduce cholesterol. Dr. Rodolfo Florentino, chair and president of the Nutrition Foundation of the Philippines, said that during the study, total cholesterol of the participants had a 5-percent reduction.
“A 5-percent reduction in cholesterol would mean a 10-percent reduction in the risk to the heart,” Florentino said at a recent Quaker press conference. The key reason is the high soluble fiber content found in oats called beta-glucan.
“Scientific studies have shown that beta-glucan is capable of lowering the cholesterol level in the blood, particularly LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol,” Florentino pointed out.
The Quaker Smart Heart Challenge is designed to become doable for anyone—just two scoops or eight tablespoons of oatmeal daily as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol.A similar study among Asian Indians was conducted in 2017. In 30 days, there was an 8-percent reduction in total cholesterol and 12-percent reduction in LDL, said Kit Phanvijhitsiri, PepsiCo Asia Pacific nutrition manager.
“If you have high cholesterol, you have a higher risk of heart disease. Changing your diet and incorporating high soluble fibers, such as oatmeal, into your daily diet, will help reduce your cholesterol. But remember that this should not replace your medication. You can supplement your medication with it,” said Dr. Rodney Jimenez, a director at the Philippine Heart Association.
(Oatmeal can raise uric acid levels, though not sky-high, said Jimenez. The main culprit to high uric acid, he said, is the consumption of red meat. Some people are just too sensitive to oats and develop a slightly elevated uric acid.)
Changing your diet need not be a chore. Jake Brandon Andal, RND, PR officer at Philippine Society of Nutritionists-Dieticians, said the main components of a healthy diet should be the diet that fits you.
Food must fit your taste, it must be affordable to you, and it must accessible while it is fresh. You can’t go wrong by including fruits and vegetables in your diet. Filipinos, Andal said, suffer from vegetable deficiency. Most are intimidated to consume the required daily servings of vegetables.
“You only need half a cup of vegetables a day. If you eat half a plate of kangkong, you’re good,” he said. Minimize eating processed food and try to cook the food you’ll be consuming as much as possible. “Fast food has become very accessible to us, that it is now easier for you to eat fast food than for you to eat fresh.”
Andal also suggested engaging in physical activity regularly. That doesn’t necessarily mean joining a marathon or buying a gym membership. Just try to stay as active as you can—walk your dog or play with your children.
“If you don’t move, your cholesterol will move up,” Andal said.
Actress, cook and vlogger Nadia Montenegro vowed to join the Quaker Smart Heart Challenge. Montenegro said she hasn’t had her cholesterol checked in a while, but will get down on it before starting with the challenge.
Her journey will be documented on her Instagram account (@officialnadiam).
“I was only thin for five years of my life,” she told Lifestyle, laughing. “I want to be healthy. I love to dress up. I just want to dress up and not be, like, sexy.”
She said she wants to run with her kids or play volleyball with them. In 2006, she had a ministroke, and in January this year, she quit smoking. She is a professional cook and caterer, so she is excited to learn the many ways to include oatmeal in the diet.
“The fact that you can put oatmeal in the blender to replace flour, that’s big for me,” she said. INQ