Published 10 months ago.
About a 4 minute read.
Image: Step One Foods
Founded by cardiologist Dr. Elizabeth Klodas, Step One Foods is aiming to change the paradigm in the US from treating high cholesterol and heart disease with drugs to the ancient wisdom of using food as medicine.
It’s striking to hear Dr. Elizabeth
Klodas, a practicing cardiologist, say that in her 14 years of
medicine-related training, not even an hour was spent on nutrition.
“The big ‘secret’ is that we’re not taught about food at all in the medicine
track,” she told Sustainable Brands®.
That fact might help explain the prevalence and morbidity of heart disease in
the United States: The condition is the leading cause of death in the
US, according to the CDC,
responsible for 697,000 deaths in 2020 alone.
One of the main contributors to heart disease is high cholesterol — which, while
there can be a genetic component, is most often brought on by poor diet, lack of
exercise and/or underlying conditions such as diabetes. The 2022 published
results of a multi-year study — of
which Klodas was a lead author, along with physicians from the Mayo Clinic
and the University of Manitoba — offer hard evidence that the answer to
lowering LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) may exist within food alone.
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The study evaluated patients with high LDL levels over two four-week periods —
one incorporating food items from Klodas’ food brand, Step One
Foods; and a non-treatment period. The goal was
to compare the effect of integrating these foods, compared to using a statin — a
pharmaceutical commonly given to help lower cholesterol.
Step One Foods wasn’t reinventing the wheel, necessarily — but rather,
refocusing a small portion of patients’ diets on naturally cholesterol-lowering
foods such as chia, flax and oat; all incorporated into low-sugar, low-salt and
high-fiber products. Step One’s current product line includes snack bars, a
pancake mix and a ground granola — foods that are easy to incorporate into most
diets and generally easy on the stomach. The study also showed the
diet-over-drug plan provided striking results.
“In our trial, 80 percent of people responded (with a lowered LDL reading),” she
On average, LDL levels lowered by 9 percent, a significant drop for not much
more than modifying a patient’s diet “around the edges,” as Klodas describes.
Patients continued eating somewhat as normal but replacing or modifying things
they were eating twice a day with Step One products.
“From the public health perspective, even this small reduction would dethrone
heart disease as our number-one killer,” Klodas asserts.
This doesn’t even take into account the patients who responded with 20-40
percent reductions in LDL levels, which is medication-level cholesterol
reduction. That, in itself, is an eye-opening result that’s potentially breaking
new ground in the conversation around using food as a first-choice treatment
Of course, the idea of food as medicine isn’t new; but many doctors, especially
in the medication-heavy fields such as cardiology, have been trained to look to
medication as the first choice in treatment (especially with not-so-subtle
nudges from the pharmaceutical industry). This has led to a serious
which itself presents two major problems: reducing the effectiveness of
medications for those who need them; and increasing the cost of insurance and
treatment, as those costs get passed through our country’s complex insurance
Statins have long been used to lower cholesterol because they’re effective; but
they’re not cheap. Generic statins can easily run in the hundreds of dollars,
even if covered by insurance, as patients often begin a long course of use when
Klodas hopes that because of this study, Step One products could eventually be
covered by insurance — giving patients an option to use their pre-tax insurance
dollars on a more natural approach to healing. She says the company is exploring
this; but not surprisingly, getting insurance coverage for a product in the US
can be quite complicated.
Klodas also sees Step One as another tool cardiologists can use to help treat
patients, especially those hesitant about using medication.
“Physicians aren’t just there to provide drugs; they’re meant to help folks,”
she says. “We (physicians) need to have data to feel confident in prescribing or
recommending something. We didn’t do this study to prove Step One works — we did
it to create a familiar basis of proof for clinicians.”
Published Jan 13, 2023 1pm EST / 10am PST / 6pm GMT / 7pm CET
Geoff is a freelance journalist and copywriter focused on making the world a better place through compelling copy. He covers everything from apparel to travel while helping brands worldwide craft their messaging. In addition to Sustainable Brands, he's currently a contributor at Penta, AskMen.com, Field Mag and many others. You can check out more of his work at geoffnudelman.com.