By Liz Collin

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — They are some of the most commonly prescribed medications, but a Twin Cities cardiologist says food can have the same effect to lower our cholesterol.

This first-of-its kind line is yielding some impressive results in heart health. So much so, Silicon Valley has taken note.

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It’s a number that for decades meant danger for Marybeth Darusmont. In her 30s, her total cholesterol hit the high 300s.  A normal level should be less than 200.

“I tried to avoid fats, avoid sugar,” Darusmont said.

Too much cholesterol increases the chance of a heart attack.  So Darusmont tried cholesterol-lowering statins like Crestor and Lipitor. But the highest doses, exercise and even a new diet didn’t move the needle enough.

A year ago, her doctor suggested a drug trial: An injectable medication that cost $14,000 a year.

“Which was very scary,” Darusmont said.

Instead, she tried Step One Foods: A line of products high in fiber, omega 3s and antioxidants designed to deliver the health benefits from foods that pharmaceuticals deliver from medication.

“I was amazed on what kind of difference it made just by eating this product twice a day,” Darusmont said.

In one month, Darusmont’s cholesterol total dropped from 221 to 185.  At 71, she has lower levels than she did 40 years ago, and lost weight.

Dr. Elizabeth Klodas is a Twin Cities cardiologist and founder of Step One Foods.

“This is the power of food. We have this therapeutic tool that we don’t use,” Dr. Klodas said.

She admits, she’s on a mission to put herself out of business.

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“What I realized is no matter how perfect I got my patients’ cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, honestly they never looked or felt any better,” Dr. Klodas said.

Side effects from statins like muscle aches and memory issues led Dr. Klodas to look for answers in food, developing her own line in 2014.  A small production facility in St. Louis Park has cooked and shipped products across the country since.

From snack bars to smoothies, two servings of Step One Foods are designed to substitute something you’re already eating.

“High blood pressure, high cholesterol, these are symptoms. Medications address the symptoms. We have to address the root cause,” Dr. Klodas said.

Dr. Klodas says that’s what we eat.

Silicon Valley is buying in. Google named Step One Foods one of the 13 most innovative companies in North America.

“We were the only non-tech company,” Dr. Klodas said.

Darusmont’s still on a smaller dose of Crestor, but her cholesterol is now down to 175. She’s lost 40 pounds, and no longer needs an afternoon nap.

“I’m so pleased this is just natural food and it’s doing the same thing. I guess it’s just eating the way we’re supposed to eat,” she said.

“We have so much power over our own health and we don’t leverage it,” Dr. Klodas said.

Power where this cardiologist is certain food is step one.

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Step One Foods costs about $4 a day. There is a money-back guarantee, though Dr. Klodas says no one has ever asked for a refund. She recommends anyone over 20 have their cholesterol levels checked every four to six years.

Liz Collin