Having healthy cholesterol levels is important for heart disease prevention. In addition to avoiding high-cholesterol foods, adding certain healthy foods to your diet may benefit cholesterol levels. In particular, drinking orange juice may affect levels of total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, the "bad" cholesterol, and/or high-density lipoprotein, the "good" cholesterol. Evidence regarding OJ's effects on cholesterol is not conclusive. The amount and kind of orange juice you drink, and also whether you already have high cholesterol, may affect the degree to which drinking orange juice benefits your cholesterol status.
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Orange Juice and LDL Cholesterol
Limited clinical research indicates that drinking pure orange juice may lower levels of LDL cholesterol in some people. A study published in "Nutrition Research" in October 2010 determined that subjects with high cholesterol were able to lower their LDL levels by consuming 750 milliliters per day of orange juice for 60 days. Orange juice consumption did not lower LDL in subjects with normal cholesterol levels. Another study, published in "Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology" in March 2004, concluded pure orange juice produced no LDL-lowering effects among mildly hypercholesterolemic subjects -- those with high cholesterol levels.
Sterol-Fortified Orange Juice
Plant sterols, or phytosterols, are natural, plant-derived compounds that inhibit the absorption of cholesterol. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, two controlled clinical trials indicate that drinking orange juice with added plant sterols can benefit your cholesterol by lowering LDL levels. One of these studies, the trial published in "Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology" in 2004, concluded that unlike regular orange juice, an eight-week regimen of 2 grams per day of plant sterol-fortified orange juice significantly decreased LDL and total cholesterol levels in mildly hypercholesterolemic subjects.
Orange Juice and HDL Cholesterol
The 2010 "Nutrition Research" study and 2004 "Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology" study concluded, respectively, no benefit of regular or phytosterol-fortified orange juice for HDL levels; however, other research, published in "The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in November 2000, concluded that consumption of 750 milliliters, but not 200 milliliters or 500 milliliters, of regular orange juice daily raised HDL levels among subjects with moderate hypercholesterolemia. Researchers speculated the flavonoids in orange juice were likely responsible for its HDL-raising effects.
Other Ways to Lower Cholesterol
While drinking orange juice may or may not lower your cholesterol, other simple actions may improve your cholesterol status. According to "Reader's Digest," research has linked the following foods with beneficial effects on blood cholesterol: red wine, olive oil, black tea, cinnamon, whole-grain bread, brown rice, oatmeal, cranberry juice, grapefruit, honey, edamame, soy milk, avocado, purple grape juice and spreads containing plant sterols. Getting regular exercise, including strength training, is another way to lower total and LDL cholesterol.