By: Nikki Nies
The portfolio diet, created by David J.A. Jenkins, MD, decreases cholesterol levels without any side effects. The name of the diet derives from the concept of figuratively “investing” in one’s health portfolio. By investing in the consumption of cholesterol lowering foods, one is ensured of a variety of foods and diversification, just as in a diverse stock portfolio.
Previous diets aim at either cutting out an entire food group, but the portfolio diet looks at the big picture and has 4 key points:
1) Soy products are consumed in replacement of meat (i.e. soy cold cuts, tofurkey)
2) 3 daily servings of Metamucil; oats and barley are primary source of grains; eggplant and okra are common vegetables consumed
3) replaces butter and margarine with plant sterol enriched margarine (i.e. Benecol, Take Control)
4) Handful of almonds consumed daily
Almonds contain cardio protective monounsaturated fats, antioxidants and vitamin E. With a daily intake, almonds provide an additional lipid lowering effect. Soluble fibers, such as oats, prunes, lentils and peas reduce absorption of dietary fat and increase loss of bile acids in feces. Soluble fiber is found in the form of beta glucans in oats and barley and as pectin in fruits and vegetables. Total cholesterol levels can be decreased 3-5% if 5-10 g of soluble fibers consumed daily.
Soy products decreases cholesterol synthesis and increases LDL receptor uptake, with the recommendation of 25 g of soy protein consumed daily. Phytosterols and stanols compete with cholesterol for absorption and are able to block uptake from gut.
While I was looking at past studies’ evidence regarding the efficacy of the portfolio diet, there was one author I couldn’t get away from. That name is ‘Jenkins.” As you know, Jenkins is the founder of the portfolio diet and his name is everywhere when it comes to the “research” of this diet. Without easy access to other researcher’s thoughts on the diet, it makes me question why the research isn’t there. While Jenkins’ Portfolio diet is not the worst of the worst diets, it’s advertisement of the the vegan diet to reduce chronic disease is questionable. Extensive studies have proven the positive impact of the adoption of this diet. 7 studies were conducted to assess the effect of the portfolio diet, specifically the consumption of almonds on blood lipid levels in those with hyperlipidemia. Over a four week period, LDL cholesterol was decreased by 30%, percentage change in LDL: 8.0%, CRP: 0.28; no difference found in blood lipids or CRP between control and experimental group.
Although there is evidence of cholesterol reduction, there have been no studies that have investigated the efficacy of a vegan Portfolio diet on healthy cholesterol levels. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Evidence Analysis Library posed the question “What’s the relationship between a portfolio diet containing almonds and cholesterol levels in patients with hyperlipidemia?”
It went on to share that in six of seven studies (with four time series studies, one positive, one neutral study and one randomized cross study), the intake of almonds was found to reduce LDL cholesterol by 30%. In addition, a self selected portfolio diet that spanned over one year was found to provide a 12.8±2% decrease in LDL cholesterol. While these numbers are promising, for a diet that has been around since 2003, there are still no present studies that have looked at the “entire diet”
Photo Credit: Lifescript and Red Orbit
1. Keith M, Kuliszewski MA, Liao C, et al. A modified portfolio diet complements medical management to reduce cardiovascular risk factors in diabetic patients with coronary artery disease. Clinical Nutrition. (0).
2. Phillips F. Natural cholesterol lowering with the portfolio diet.Practice Nurse [serial online]. July 23, 2010;40(2):19-22. Available from: Academic Search Premier, Ipswich, MA.
3. Evidence Analysis Library. from: