A study by researchers in the West Virginia University School of Medicine, Tufts University and Stanford University shows that the combination of exercise and diet improves cholesterol better than either one alone in adults.

George A. Kelley, D.A., and Kristi S. Kelley, M.Ed., researchers in the WVU Department of Community Medicine, Susan Roberts, Ph.D., of the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, and William Haskell, Ph.D., of the Stanford Prevention Research Center, studied the effects of aerobic exercise, diet or both on cholesterol levels in adults.
 For this study, the researchers pooled the results from multiple studies that included 788 men and women 18 years of age and older. Exercise included aerobic exercise (for example, walking), approximately three times per week along with any diet considered to improve cholesterol levels in adults.

 Improvements were greatest for those who both exercised and dieted versus doing either one alone. Reductions in the “bad” types of cholesterol were approximately 6 percent for total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. In addition, a reduction of about 13 percent was found for triglycerides. No significant change was found for high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol.

 Importantly, the reduction in LDL cholesterol, currently the primary target of cholesterol-lowering therapy in adults, was estimated to save more than 24,000 deaths in the United States from coronary heart disease.

 “Heart disease in the number one cause of death in the U.S., and it is well-established that higher cholesterol levels lead to an increased risk of premature death,” Dr. Kelley said. “These findings suggest that combined aerobic exercise and diet can be an important option for improving cholesterol levels and saving lives in adults.”

 The study, supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health, appears in the April issue of “Clinical Nutrition