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Red Onion vs. Heart Disease: Has High Cholesterol Met Its Match?

red onion
(istockphoto) istockphoto

(CBS) Can eating red onions lower your risk for heart attack and stroke? A new study suggests the answer to that question may be yes.

At least if you're a hamster.

Scientists in Hong Kong fed crushed onions to hamsters that had been on a high-cholesterol diet. After eight weeks, the little guys' levels of low-densitiy lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol fell by 20 percent, the Daily Mail reported.

That's good news, because elevated LDL cholesterol levels are linked to cardiovascular disease.

At the same time, there was no decline in the hamsters' levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol - the good stuff.

These findings "support the claim that the regular consumption of onion reduces the risk of coronary heart disease," lead researcher Zhen Yu Chen of the Chinese University of Hong Kong said, according to the newspaper.

The onions - sweeter than the more familiar white variety - are a staple of Indian and Mediterranean cooking.

Red onions may have other health benefits as well. They seem to contain compounds that slow the growth of colon and liver cancer cells, according to a 2004 study published in the "Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry."

Does all this mean that people who avoid onions are missing out on their health benefits?

It's enough to make you cry.


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