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Kale Kimchi Cholesterol Reducer

April 26, 2013 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

Over the years, several of my clients have expressed concern about borderline high levels of LDL cholesterol. In almost every case, the rest of their lipid profile (HDL or “good” cholesterol, triglycerides and VLDL or very low density cholesterol) were generally classified as acceptable to outstanding. Uniformly, my response has been that there’s nothing to be concerned about if they’re already leading a heart healthy lifestyle that avoids smoking and includes regular exercise, stress management and a nutrient-dense diet. Personally, I tell them that under the same circumstances, I wouldn’t use medications or supplements to lower my LDL cholesterol. However, on occasion, the largely unjustified fear that’s been instilled about LDL cholesterol persists and some sort of action is requested.

A modest decrease in LDL cholesterol can be expected by adopting a low carbohydrate, high fat, Mediterranean style diet that contains a fair share of fiber-rich foods. For those who want an additional resource, I’ve also come up with a simple vegetable smoothy that may further decrease LDL cholesterol and improve various cardiometabolic risk factors. The following recipe is essentially a food-based “medicine” that’s inspired by peer reviewed studies published in esteemed scientific journals.

To a high powered blender add: purified water, a cup of fresh or frozen kale, a few forkfuls of raw kimchi, a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil and organic black pepper to taste. The exact amounts of the ingredients do not need to be precise. What’s much more important is consistent intake. Daily kale consumption has been shown to elevate HDL cholesterol, lower LDL cholesterol and, thereby, reduce one’s atherogenic index. Kimchi, a fermented vegetable dish popular in Korea, likewise drops LDL cholesterol while lowering blood pressure and fasting blood glucose. Diets that include even small amounts of extra virgin olive oil (4 grams/day) positively affect other measures of cardiovascular wellness such as the apolipoprotein A1(Apo-AI)/apolipoprotein B (Apo-B) ratio. In addition, olive oil enhances the absorption of important fat soluble nutrients and phytochemicals that naturally occur in kale and kimchi. Finally, a recent review on black pepper reports that it “reduces cholesterol uptake by internalizing cholesterol transporter proteins”. All told, including this bold tasting, green drink in your daily diet may be enough to improve your lipid profile, overall health and peace of mind. Cheers!

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 – Effect of Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet with Phytoextracts and Low (link)

Study 2 – A Mediterranean-Style, Low–Glycemic-Load Diet Decreases (link)

Study 3 – The Effect of the Spanish Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet on Nonalcoholic(link)

Study 4 – Self Nutrition Data: Kale, Raw … (link)

Study 5 – Carotenoid Micellarization Varies Greatly Between Individual and … (link)

Study 6 – Black Pepper and Piperine Reduce Cholesterol Uptake and … (link)

Study 7 – Kale Juice Improves Coronary Artery Disease Risk Factors in (link)

Study 8 – Kimchi, a Fermented Vegetable, Improves Serum Lipid Profiles (link)

Study 9 – Fermented Kimchi Reduces Body Weight and Improves Metabolic (link)

Study 10 – Effects of Extra Virgin Olive Oil Supplementation at Two Different (link)

Kimchi is a Natural Source of Vitamin B12

Source: Nutr Res Pract. 2010 Jun;4(3):229-234. (link)

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Posted in Food and Drink, Heart Health, Nutrition

23 Comments & Updates to “Kale Kimchi Cholesterol Reducer”

  1. Orna Izakson Says:

    Hi JP —

    Another great one, and I’ve forwarded it as usual.

    Question: How much of a good thing is too much? I see a fair number of folks with ostensibly outstanding diets who show up with low total cholesterol — low enough to cause anxiety and other symptoms — with outstanding (officially even elevated) HDL. Is there such a thing as too much kale, EVOO or kimchi?

    Thanks for your thoughts!

    —Dr. O

  2. JP Says:

    Thank you, Orna!

    There absolutely can be too much. And, this recipe isn’t necessarily appropriate for everyone – case in point, those with very low cholesterol.

    As you know, low cholesterol can be problematic for a number of reasons including a link to fewer serotonin receptors and lower Vitamin D. In addition, low cholesterol may be an indication of undiagnosed cancer.

    If someone is generally healthy, but presents low cholesterol, diet is my preferred suggestion. Topping the list, healthy sources of dietary cholesterol (eggs, lamb, turkey, etc.) and saturated fats (grass fed cream, unrefined coconut and palm oil). IMO, these can be quite healthful in the context of a nutrient-dense, whole food diet.

    Be well!


  3. JP Says:

    A quick follow up … duck eggs are a particularly good source of dietary cholesterol. They have more than twice the amount of cholesterol as chicken eggs.


    Be well!


  4. Mary@BrightonYourHealth Says:

    Great article! I am going to share this on my blog’s facebook page. A lot of my readers love kale-power food! Good advice for me too, as a dietitian, to tell my patients.

  5. JP Says:

    Many thanks, Mary. I’m very happy to hear it!

    Be well!


  6. Orna Izakson Says:

    So honestly, here’s what confuses me: We tell people with high-ish cholesterol that fat doesn’t raise their levels, carbs/inflammation do. But then we turn around and tell folks with low cholesterol that boosting fat in their diet will help raise their cholesterol to more comfortable levels. Can we have it both ways?


  7. JP Says:

    Hi Orna,

    Thank you for asking this question. It’s an important issue to address. Generally speaking, lower carbohydrate diets which include eggs tend to lower cholesterol. More importantly, such diets typically improve lipoprotein size and subfraction distribution. However, we need to keep in mind that those with hyper or normolipidemia may not react identically to those with low cholesterol. And, as far as I know, studies evaluating the effects of low carb nutrition in those with low cholesterol are absent in the medical literature.

    While mostly theoretical, I think the best (healthiest) approach to try to raise cholesterol is to increase dietary cholesterol intake and saturated fat – in the form of minimally processed foods. Preferably, these food types should be eaten apart from foods that impede cholesterol absorption – fiber, sterols, etc. Essentially, one should do the exact opposite of what’s recommended to lower cholesterol. In other words: emphasize high-cholesterol foods, saturated fats and limit the concurrent use of fiber-rich foods when consuming coconut milk, eggs, meat, etc. The upside of this approach is that it *may* increase total cholesterol and will, almost certainly, improve overall cardiometabolic profiles.

    Be well!


  8. charles grashow Says:

    Is kale a problem for people on Armour thyroid?

  9. charles grashow Says:

    Does kale present a problem if one is taking Armour for thyroid?

  10. JP Says:

    Hi Charles,

    Kale is part of the cruciferous family of vegetables which are classified as being goitrogenic. Essentially, this means that they can suppress thryoid function … mainly by interfering with iodine uptake.

    IMO, it’s advisable to consume goitrogenic foods (even healthy ones like broccoli and kale) in moderation if you have an established thyroid condition. Monitoring any potential changes in thyroid function/symptoms is essential when making dietary changes as well. A few other strategies worth consideration: 1) Ensure adequate/optimal iodine intake when consuming goitrogens – preferably at separate times of the day; 2) Cooking goitrogenic vegetables appears to minimize their influence on thyroid function.

    Be well!


  11. Orna Izakson Says:

    Thanks for your thoughtful answer, JP. And I second the recommendation to cook Brassica family foods to reduce their thyroid-inhibiting properties.

  12. JP Says:

    Thank you, Orna!

    Be well!


  13. BG Says:

    Hello JP

    The vexed question of cholesterol and statins is covered in this video http://vimeo.com/65517435 and compellingly makes the case that orthodox aproaches to the alleged cholesterol threat are putting lives at risk.

    Mindless background music cuts in and out for no good reason which makes hearing the contributors hard at times but the information is so important it’s worth persevering.

    There is a charge for the DVD but it can be seen for free online at the moment.

    What do you think JP?

    Thanks, Brian

  14. JP Says:

    Hi BG,

    I didn’t have the chance to watch the video. However, my overall view about cholesterol differs from the conventional medical establishment. I have yet to recommend or suggest statin drugs to anyone. Maintaining a healthful diet and lifestyle tends to affect lipid levels in a positive manner – even if the readings are outside of what’s currently considered ideal. IMO, many other factors including calcium deposits in the arteries, endothelial function, high blood sugar, inflammation, oxidized cholesterol, triglycerides, etc. are more important cardiovascular risk markers.

    Be well!


  15. JP Says:

    Update: Kale juice lowers blood pressure. Other health effects may depend on genes …


    The effect of glutathione S-transferase M1 and T1 polymorphisms on blood pressure, blood glucose, and lipid profiles following the supplementation of kale (Brassica oleracea acephala) juice in South Korean subclinical hypertensive patients


    Glutathione S-transferase (GST) forms a multigene family of phase II detoxification enzymes which are involved in the detoxification of reactive oxygen species. This study examines whether daily supplementation of kale juice can modulate blood pressure (BP), levels of lipid profiles, and blood glucose, and whether this modulation could be affected by the GSTM1 and GSTT1 polymorphisms.


    84 subclinical hypertensive patients showing systolic BP over 130 mmHg or diastolic BP over 85 mmHg received 300 ml/day of kale juice for 6 weeks, and blood samples were collected on 0-week and 6-week in order to evaluate plasma lipid profiles (total cholesterol, triglyceride, HDL-cholesterol, and LDL-cholesterol) and blood glucose.


    Systolic and diastolic blood pressure was significantly decreased in all patients regardless of their GSTM1 or GSTT1 polymorphisms after kale juice supplementation. Blood glucose level was decreased only in the GSTM1-present genotype, and plasma lipid profiles showed no difference in both the GSTM1-null and GSTM1-present genotypes. In the case of GSTT1, on the other hand, plasma HDL-C was increased and LDL-C was decreased only in the GSTT1-present type, while blood glucose was decreased only in the GSTT1-null genotype.


    These findings suggest that the supplementation of kale juice affected blood pressure, lipid profiles, and blood glucose in subclinical hypertensive patients depending on their GST genetic polymorphisms, and the improvement of lipid profiles was mainly greater in the GSTT1-present genotype and the decrease of blood glucose was greater in the GSTM1-present or GSTT1-null genotypes.

    Be well!


  16. JP Says:

    Updated 09/18/15:


    J Microbiol Biotechnol. 2015 Sep 15.

    Effect of low salt concentrations on microbial changes during kimchi fermentation monitored by PCR-DGGE and their sensory acceptance.

    Various salt concentrations (1.0%, 1.3%, 1.6%, 1.9% and 2.1% labeled as sample A, B, C, D and E respectively) was investigated for microbial diversity, identification of Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB) in salted Kimchi cabbage, prepared under laboratory conditions. These samples were stored at 4°C for 5 weeks in proper aluminium metalized pouch packaging with calcium hydroxide gas absorber. A culture-independent method known as Polymerase Chain Reaction – Denaturing Gradient Gel Electrophoresis (PCR-DGGE) was carried out to identify LAB distributions among various salt concentration samples that had identified 2 Weissella (W. confusa and W. soli), 1 Lactobacillus (Lb. sakei) and 3 Leuconostoc (Lc. mesenteroides, Lc. lactis, and Lc. gelidum) in the overall kimchi samples. The pH, titratable acidity, viable cell counts, and coliform counts were not affected by salt variations. In order to assess sensory acceptance, the conducted sensory evaluation using 9-point hedonic scale had revealed that sample with 1.3% salt concentration (lower than the manufacturer’s regular salt concentration) was more preferred indicating that the use of 1.3% salt concentration was acceptable in normal kimchi fermentation for its quality and safety. Despite similarities in pH, titratable acidity, viable cell counts, coliform counts and LAB distributions among various salt concentrations of kimchi samples, sample with 1.3% salt concentration was shown to be the most preferred indicating that this salt concentration was suitable in kimchi production in order to reduce salt intake through kimchi consumptions.

    Be well!


  17. JP Says:

    Updated 09/18/15:


    Oncotarget. 2015 Aug 10.

    Dietary prevention of Helicobacter pylori-associated gastric cancer with kimchi.

    To prove whether dietary intervention can prevent Helicobacter pylori-induced atrophic gastritis and gastric cancer, we developed cancer preventive kimchi (cpKimchi) through special recipe and administered to chronic H. pylori-initiated, high salt diet-promoted, gastric tumorigenesis mice model. H. pylori-infected C57BL/6 mice were administered with cpKimchi mixed in drinking water up to 36 weeks. Gross and pathological gastric lesions were evaluated after 24 and 36 weeks, respectively and explored underlying molecular changes to explain efficacies. Cancer preventive actions of anti-inflammation and anti-mutagenesis were compared between standard recipe kimchi (sKimchi) and special recipe cpKimchi in in vitro H. pylori-infected cell model. The erythematous and nodular changes, mucosal ulcerative and erosive lesions in the stomach were noted at 24th weeks, but cpKimchi administration significantly ameliorated. After 36th weeks, scattered nodular masses, some ulcers, and thin nodular gastric mucosa were noted in H. pylori-infected mice, whereas these gross lesions were significantly attenuated in cpKimchi group. On molecular analysis, significant expressions of COX-2 and IL-6, activated NF-κB and STAT3, increased apoptosis, and marked oxidative stresses were noted in H. pylori-infected group relevant to tumorigenesis, but these were all significantly attenuated in cpKimchi group. cpKimchi extracts imparted significant selective induction of apoptosis only in cancer cells, led to inhibition of H. pylori-induced proliferation, while no cytotoxicity through significant HO-1 induction in non-transformed gastric cells. In conclusion, daily dietary intake of cpKimchi can be an effective way either to rejuvenate H. pylori-atrophic gastritis or to prevent tumorigenesis supported with the concerted actions of anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory, and anti-mutagenic mechanisms.

    Be well!


  18. JP Says:

    Updated 09/18/15:


    J Microbiol Biotechnol. 2015 May 8.

    Isolation of lactic acid bacteria showing anti-oxidative and probiotic activities from kimchi and infant feces.

    The purpose of this study aimed to investigate the lactic acid bacteria with anti-oxidative and probiotic activities isolated from Korean healthy infant feces and kimchi. A1, A2, S1, S2, and S3 isolates were assigned to Lactobacillus sp. A3, A4, E1, E2, E3, and E4 isolates were assigned to Leuconostoc sp. on the basis of their physiological properties and 16S ribosomal DNA sequence analysis. Most strains were confirmed as safe bio resources through non-hemolytic activities and non-production of harmful enzymes such as β-glucosidase, β-glucuronidase and tryptophanase etc. Isolated 11 strains showed different resistant to acid and bile acids. In addition, 11 strains exhibited antibacterial activity against food-borne bacteria, especially Bacillus cereus, Listeria monocytogenes, and Escherichia coli. Furthermore, all strains showed the highest levels of hydrophobicity. The antioxidant effects of 11 strains culture filtrate include 2,2-diphenyl-1-picryl-hydrazyl (DPPH) radical scavenging capacity, 2.2′-azino-bis (2-ethylbenzthiazoline-6-sulphonic acid) (ABTS) radical cation scavenging activity and superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity. The results revealed that most strains culture filtrate have effectively scavenging activity at DPPH and ABTS radicals. All strains appeared effectively superoxide dismutase activity. In conclusion, isolated strains A1, A3, S1, and S3 have good probiotic activities applicable to the development for functional foods and health-related products. Also these might be contributed to prevent and control several disease associated with oxidative stress using as probiotics.

    Be well!


  19. JP Says:

    Updated 11/14/116:


    Nutrition Journal 201615:93

    The use of probiotic L. fermentum ME-3 containing Reg’Activ Cholesterol supplement for 4 weeks has a positive influence on blood lipoprotein profiles and inflammatory cytokines: an open-label preliminary study

    Background: Cardiovascular diseases continue to be a challenge and burden to heath. The incidence of type 2 diabetes is increasing. Modifying the (common) risk factors of them is the key of longterm success. The aim of the study was to establish if the special composition of innovative food supplement Reg’Activ Cholesterol (RAC) has a positive influence to the human body cardiovascular-inflammatory and diabetic parameters.

    Methods: Forty-five clinically asymptomatic participants consumed an RAC containing an antioxidative and antiatherogenic probiotic Lactobacillus fermentum ME-3 (LFME-3) for 4 weeks. The parameters measured were total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglyceride, oxLDL, hsCRP, IL-6 and glycosylated haemoglobin (HbA1c%).

    Results: The cardiovascular and diabetes risk profile of the participants improved significantly after 4 weeks of the intervention. The reduction of total cholesterol (from 6.5 ± 1.0 to 5.7 ± 0.9 mmol/l, p = 9.90806E-11) was on the account of LDL cholesterol as the HDL cholesterol level rose from 1.60 ± 0.31to 1.67 ± 0.34mml/l, p = 0.01. HbA1c% was reduced from 5.85 ± 0.28 to 5.66 ± 0.25 p = 4.64E-05 and oxLDL decreased from 84 ± 20 to 71 ± 15 U/l, p = 4.66292E-08.

    Conclusions: The consumption of RAC in clinically asymptomatic volunteers with borderline-high values of risk factors for cardiovascular disease (BMI, HbA1c%, LDL cholesterol) for 4 weeks had a positive effect on blood lipoprotein, oxidative stress and inflammatory profile. There are no human trials published before with RAC.

    Be well!


  20. JP Says:

    Updated 11/28/16:


    Biomed Rep. 2016 Nov;5(5):553-558.

    Intake of kale suppresses postprandial increases in plasma glucose: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study.

    Kale (Brassica oleracea var. acephala), a vegetable in the family Brassicaceae, has beneficial effects on health, including hypoglycemic effects. In our previous study with a limited number of subjects, intake of kale-containing food at a dose of 14 g decreased postprandial plasma glucose levels. In the present study, the effective dose of kale-containing food was investigated in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial. The trial was conducted on 42 Japanese subjects aged 21-64 years with fasting plasma glucose levels of ≤125 mg/dl and 30-min postprandial plasma glucose levels of 140-187 mg/dl. The subjects consumed placebo or kale-containing food [7 or 14 g; low-dose (active-L) or high-dose (active-H) kale, respectively] together with a high-carbohydrate meal. At 30-120 min after the test meal intake, the plasma levels of glucose and insulin were determined. The postprandial plasma glucose levels in subjects with intake of active-L or active-H were significantly lower than those in subjects with intake of placebo, with the maximum plasma concentration (Cmax; 163±24 mg/dl for active-L and 162±23 mg/dl for active-H compared with 176±26 mg/dl for placebo [values presented as means ± standard deviation (SD); P<0.01]. The area under the plasma glucose concentration-time curve for 0-2 h (AUC0-2 h) values (means ± SD) were significantly lower for active-L (268±43 mg/h/dl) and active-H (266±42 mg/h/dl) than for the placebo (284±43 mg/h/dl; P<0.05). No significant differences were identified in the postprandial plasma insulin levels between the three conditions. No adverse events associated with intake of either dose of kale were observed. Our findings suggest that intake of kale suppresses postprandial increases in plasma glucose levels at a single dose of 7 g, and that a dose as high as 14 g is safe.

    Be well!


  21. JP Says:

    Updated 12/23/17:


    J Med Food. 2017 Dec 22.

    Beneficial Effects of Kimchi, a Korean Fermented Vegetable Food, on Pathophysiological Factors Related to Atherosclerosis.

    Atherosclerosis is a progressive disease that is characterized by accumulation of lipids and fibrous elements in large arteries. Its etiology is involved with pathophysiological factors such as lipoprotein oxidation, inflammation, and dyslipidemia. Kimchi is a Korean fermented vegetable side dish made with vegetables and kimchi condiments. To date, numerous in vitro, in vivo, and human studies have cited the health benefits of kimchi. 3-(4′-Hydroxyl-3′,5′-dimethoxyphenyl)propionic acid is one of the active compounds of kimchi, and its antioxidant and anti-atherosclerosclerotic effects have been reported. This review presents the laboratory and clinical evidence of the anti-atherosclerotic effects of kimchi based on its lipid-lowering, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory activities.

    Be well!


  22. JP Says:

    Updated 12/04/18:


    Nutrients. 2018 Nov 2;10(11).

    Are Raw Brassica Vegetables Healthier Than Cooked Ones? A Randomized, Controlled Crossover Intervention Trial on the Health-Promoting Potential of Ethiopian Kale.

    The present human intervention trial investigated the health-promoting potential of B. carinata, with a focus on effects of thermal processing on bioactivity. Twenty-two healthy subjects consumed a B. carinata preparation from raw (allyl isothiocyanate-containing) or cooked (no allyl isothiocyanate) leaves for five days in a randomized crossover design. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells were exposed to aflatoxin B1 (AFB1), with or without metabolic activation using human S9 mix, and subsequently analyzed for DNA damage using the comet assay. Plasma was analyzed for total antioxidant capacity and prostaglandin E₂ (PGE₂) levels. Cooked B. carinata significantly reduced DNA damage induced by AFB1 as compared to baseline levels (+S9 mix: 35%, -S9 mix: 33%, p ≤ 0.01, respectively). Raw B. carinata only reduced DNA damage by S9-activated AFB1 by 21% (p = 0.08). PGE₂ plasma levels were significantly reduced in subjects after consuming raw B. carinata. No changes in plasma antioxidant capacity were detectable. A balanced diet, including raw and cooked Brassica vegetables, might be suited to fully exploit the health-promoting potential. These results also advocate the promotion of B. carinata cultivation in Eastern Africa as a measure to combat effects of unavoidable aflatoxin exposure.

    Be well!


  23. JP Says:

    Updated 01/24/19:


    BMC Complement Altern Med. 2019 Jan 22;19(1):27.

    A randomized, double blind, placebo controlled, multicenter clinical trial to assess the efficacy and safety of Emblica officinalis extract in patients with dyslipidemia.

    BACKGROUND: Dyslipidemia is one of the most frequently implicated risk factors for development of atherosclerosis. This study evaluated the efficacy of amla (Emblica officinalis) extract (composed of polyphenols, triterpenoids, oils etc. as found in the fresh wild amla fruit) in patients with dyslipidemia.

    METHODS: A total of 98 dyslipidemic patients were enrolled and divided into amla and placebo groups. Amla extract (500 mg) or a matching placebo capsule was administered twice daily for 12 weeks to the respective group of patients. The patients were followed up for 12 weeks and efficacy of study medication was assessed by analyzing lipid profile. Other parameters evaluated were apolipoprotein B (Apo B), apolipoprotein A1 (Apo A1), Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), high-sensitive C-reactive protein (hsCRP), fasting blood sugar (FBS), homocysteine and thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH).

    RESULTS: In 12 weeks, the major lipids such as total cholesterol (TC) (p = 0.0003), triglyceride (TG) (p = 0.0003), low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) (p = 0.0064) and very low density lipoprotein cholesterol (VLDL-C) (p = 0.0001) were significantly lower in amla group as compared to placebo group. Additionally, a 39% reduction in atherogenic index of the plasma (AIP) (p = 0.0177) was also noted in amla group. The ratio of Apo B to Apo A1 was reduced more (p = 0.0866) in the amla group as compared to the placebo. There was no significant change in CoQ10 level of amla (p = 0.2942) or placebo groups (p = 0.6744). Although there was a general trend of FBS reduction, the numbers of participants who may be classified as pre-diabetes and diabetes groups (FBS > 100 mg/dl) in the amla group were only 8. These results show that the amla extract used in the study is potentially a hypoglycaemic as well. However, this needs reconfirmation in a larger study.

    CONCLUSIONS: The Amla extract has shown significant potential in reducing TC and TG levels as well as lipid ratios, AIP and apoB/apo A-I in dyslipidemic persons and thus has scope to treat general as well as diabetic dyslipidemia. A single agent to reduce cholesterol as well as TG is rare. Cholesterol reduction is achieved without concomitant reduction of Co Q10, in contrast to what is observed with statins.

    Be well!


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