Cholesterol-reducing shakes are formulated meal replacement drinks with ingredients that offer cardiovascular benefits. These shakes contain protein, fiber and antioxidants and are fortified with probiotics, vitamins and minerals. They are a low-calorie meal replacement, which encourages weight loss. With the exception of fiber and weight loss, none of the shake ingredients significantly and independently lowers cholesterol. However, by replacing a meal with a healthy shake, you reduce the amounts of calories, fat and cholesterol you consume, which helps lower blood cholesterol.
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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), high cholesterol affects approximately 20 percent of American adults. In addition, the World Health Organization (WHO) says high cholesterol contributes to more than 50 percent of the cases of coronary heart disease worldwide, to which nearly 4.5 million deaths annually are attributed. The high prevalence of elevated cholesterol has created a market for food items such as cholesterol-lowering shakes that may aid in lowering cholesterol.
Weight Loss and Cholesterol
Replacing one meal with a shake helps contribute to weight loss (which results in lower cholesterol) by reducing caloric intake, particularly in men. In a study published in Archives of Internal Medicine as abstracted on researchgate.net, researchers enrolled 73 obese men and women in a 16-week weight reduction program. In men, a 10.7-kilogram (kg) weight loss was associated with a 5 percent increase in HDL (good) cholesterol and a 16 percent decrease in LDL (bad) cholesterol. On average, for women, a 9-kg weight loss was associated with a 5 percent decrease in LDL cholesterol only, suggesting weight loss may be an important means of decreasing cholesterol more in men than in women.
Shakeology Meal Replacement
One commercial meal replacement beverage, manufactured by Team Beachbody, is designed to help lower cholesterol. One meal per day is replaced with this drink, called Shakeology. The purported benefits include weight loss, an increase in energy, promotion of healthy digestion and lower cholesterol levels. The mix ingredients, derived from whole-food sources, include many nutrients and antioxidants and are rich in fiber. According to the manufacturer, in a 90-day study, participants replaced one meal per day with Shakeology, ate a balanced diet and exercised moderately three times weekly. Total and LDL cholesterol were each reduced, on average, by 30 percent. A month supply of shake mix costs $119.95.
Dietary Fiber and Cholesterol
While there is no official Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for fiber, the Adequate Intake (AI) level is 25 grams (g) for women 18 to 50 years old (21 g for women over 50) and 38 grams for men (30 g for men over 50). According to the American Heart Association, dietary fiber, particularly soluble fiber, helps lower cholesterol, especially LDL cholesterol, by reducing the absorption of cholesterol in the intestines. The Mayo Clinic recommends consuming 10 g or more of soluble fiber daily to decrease total and LDL cholesterol by 10 to 15 percent, on average.
Shakeology Boost Powder
The Shakeology meal replacement shake mix offers 3 g of dietary fiber, making it a good food source of fiber. However, the company also sells a "fiber boost powder" that may be added to the shake mix for more significant cholesterol-lowering benefits. This supplement offers a mix of several different powdered forms of soluble fiber, including psyllium seed husk and inulin and apple pectin. Adding a full scoop of "The Fiber" to Shakeology adds 10 g of fiber for a total of 13 g of fiber. This amount meets nearly 50 percent of the AI for dietary fiber. Since most of the fiber is soluble, it may indeed help to lower total and LDL cholesterol levels.