Ministry of Health statistics show approximately one in four New Zealand adults need to manage their cholesterol levels for their heart health.
But a new survey has shown that almost half of Kiwis don't take into account how their diet could be affecting their cholesterol levels.
The research found that four in 10 adults get themselves tested regularly and nearly two-thirds of Kiwis have high cholesterol, or know someone who has high cholesterol.
The survey also showed that almost half (47%) of the respondents do not consider the potential impact of their food choices on their cholesterol levels.
Professor of Human Nutrition and Medicine at Otago University Dr Jim Mann said: “The really interesting thing is while a significant proportion of New Zealanders in the recommended age group are getting their cholesterol measured, the problem is they’re not doing anything about it."
More than half (57%) of the study's respondents said they knew the difference between HDL (so-called 'good' cholesterol) and LDL cholesterol.
Plant sterol potential
“I think it's good to know the difference between good and bad cholesterol but I don’t think that is the critical thing in the public health message at all. It's more important that we persuade Kiwis that it's worth them actually doing something about their cholesterol,” said Professor Mann.
“There is a role for a range of modifications, including increasing polyunsaturated fats, dietary fibre, and plant sterols; all of these dietary factors can influence cholesterol levels."
The study showed that for the remaining six in 10 Kiwis who don’t have their cholesterol levels monitored every two years, complacency and a general lack of understanding of the factors influencing cholesterol levels were the primary reasons for not getting tested.
A quarter of these Kiwis have never thought about having their cholesterol tested, about a fifth (21%) said their doctors had not suggested they be checked, while others said maintaining a healthy diet (18%) and lifestyle (17%) or a lack of family history of high cholesterol (13%) alone was sufficient.
The research was commissioned by breakfast cereal brand Weet-Bix, which is launching a plant sterol-fortified line, Weet-Bix Cholesterol Lowering.