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Prawns Are Part Of A Healthy Diet

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UK - Research recently published has finally shattered the old wives tale that eatingprawns can raise your cholesterol.

The study headed by Professor Bruce Griffin from the University of Surrey showed that people who ate 225g of prawns per day showed absolutely no effect on their blood cholesterol levels.

The research team fed healthy male volunteers 225g of cold water prawns over a period of 12 weeks while a control group had the equivalent weight of fish (‘crab’) sticks. The two groups then swapped diets for a further 12 weeks, in what is known as a ‘cross-over’ trial. The prawns and ‘crab’ sticks were matched in terms of total energy and nutrient content but importantly the prawn diet contained nearly four times the dietary cholesterol of the control group. Blood samples were taken at the beginning and end of the study to determine any changes to blood cholesterol level.

Research leader Professor Bruce Griffin said “The study found that the consumption of prawns produced no significant effects on the blood cholesterol level relative to the control, or within each intervention group over time. There was also no significant effect on LDL (bad) cholesterol levels compared with the control group.”

The research provides further evidence to support the now established scientific understanding that saturated fat in the diet (most often found in pastry, processed meats, biscuits and cakes) is more responsible for raising blood cholesterol than cholesterol-rich foods, such as shellfish.

The NHS Direct website notes that dietary cholesterol has little effect on blood cholesterol, the British Heart Foundation website quotes “The cholesterol which is found in some foods such as eggs, liver, kidneys and some types of seafood e.g. prawns, does not usually make a great contribution to the level of cholesterol in your blood” and the Medical Research Council states that “individuals with high blood cholesterol often mistakenly seek out and actively avoid foods that are rich in cholesterol such as shellfish and eggs, whereas the key issue is to decrease saturated fatty acids.”

“Despite this, many health care professionals are still giving out-of-date advice patients with high blood cholesterol to cut back on prawns” said Dr Tom Pickerell, Director of the Shellfish Association of Great Britain. ”Prawns are low in saturated fat, low in calories, and a rich source of omega-3 fats, and along with other shellfish should form part of a healthy diet.”

In a small number of people (about 1 in 100) high blood cholesterol can be caused by a genetic condition called Familial Hypercholesterolaemia (FH) or Familial Combined Hyperlipidaemia (FCH). Those with this condition often need to be more cautious in their consumption of high cholesterol foods.