Resource post for October: Alternative supplements to lower your cholesterol levels

October 2, 2008 by  

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There are mainstream pharmacological products and there are alternative natural products. There was a time when these two types of products don’t mix. Nowadays, many health experts not only believe but even recommend the use of alternative or adjunctive therapies in the form of acupuncture, yoga, etc. as well as nutritional supplements, nutraceuticals, and herbal medicine.

However, it is always prudent to use these products with caution. While many have been proven to be beneficial to our health and highly effective against certain diseases, there are also many which are suspect and can even have harmful effects.

In this post, I will try to review what the experts say about cholesterol-lowering supplements and alternative products.

Only a few natural products have been proved to be effective in reducing cholesterol levels. The table below from the MayoClinic site gives us a comprehensive overview of the most common alternative cholesterol-lowering drugs.

Cholesterol-lowering supplement

What it does

Side effects and drug interactions

Usual suggested doses 

Artichoke extract

May reduce total cholesterol and LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol

May cause gas or an allergic reaction

1,800 to 1,920 milligrams a day, divided into 2 to 3 doses 


May reduce total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol


3 grams barley oil extract or 30 grams barley bran flour a day 

Beta-sitosterol (found in oral supplements and some margarines, such as Promise Activ)

May reduce total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol

May cause nausea, indigestion, gas, diarrhea or constipation
May be ineffective if you take ezetimibe (Zetia), a prescription cholesterol medication

800 milligrams to 6 grams a day, divided and taken before meals, or 2 tablespoons of margarine containing beta-sitosterol a day 

Blond psyllium (found in seed husk and products such as Metamucil)

May reduce total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol

May cause gas, stomach pain, diarrhea, constipation or nausea

5 grams seed husk twice a day, or 1 serving a day of products such as Metamucil 

Fish oil (found as a liquid oil and in oil-filled capsules)

May reduce triglycerides

May cause a fishy aftertaste, bad breath, gas, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
May interact with some blood-thinning medications, such as warfarin (Coumadin)

2 to 4 grams a day 

Flaxseed, ground

May reduce total triglycerides

May cause, gas, bloating or diarrhea
May interact with some blood-thinning medications, such as aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix) and warfarin (Coumadin)

40 to 50 grams a day, stirred into cereal or yogurt, or mixed into the batter for baked goods 

Garlic extract

May reduce total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides

May cause bad breath or body odor, heartburn, gas, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
May interact with blood-thinning medications, such as warfarin (Coumadin)

600 to 1,200 milligrams a day, divided into 3 doses 

Oat bran (found in oatmeal and whole oats)

May reduce total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol

May cause gas or bloating

Up to 150 grams of whole-oat products a day 

Sitostanol (found in oral supplements and some margarines, such as Benecol)

May reduce total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol

May cause diarrhea

800 milligrams to 4 grams a day, or 4 1/2 teaspoons of margarine containing sitostanol a day 

 Other products not on the list are the following oriental herbal medicine (Sources: Mayo Clinic; Cleveland Clinic)

  • Guggulipid comes from the gum resin of the mukul myrrh tree (Commiphora whighitii).
  • The root extract from Costus speciosus is said to be antihyperglycemic, antihyperlipemic and antioxidative effects
  • Bofutsushosan which is a Japanese herbal medicine seems to have a similar effect.
  • Cinnamon
  • Noni juice is an extract from the fruit of Morinda citrifolia which grows in the Asia-Pacific region.
  • Red yeast rice, an extract of Monascus purpureus has been reported to have beneficial effects on cardiovascular health (see previous post). However, the US FDA has issued a warning concerning three brands of red yeast rice because they were found to contain unknown quantities of lovastatin. High doses of lovastatin is associated with muscle and kidney problems.

The following plant extracts are said to be rich in flavonoids which inhibit LDL oxidation:

Supplements and herbal medicine are available without prescription. However, before we embark on a certain therapy or start on a new drug, we must keep several things in mind.

  •  It is absolutely necessary that you discuss with your doctor before starting on an alternative drug or therapy. Different kinds of medicine, alternative or mainstream, may interact with one another to produce undesirable and sometimes dangerous effects. For example, garlic can lead to prolonged bleeding and longer blood clotting time, so that garlic and garlic supplements should not be taken with blood-thinning drugs such as warfarin.
  • We should be cautious of using supplements that are not certified by health authorities. Some imported traditional medicine may turn out to be contaminated, much worse – counterfeits.
  • Remember – it is also important that any therapy should be complemented by a healthy lifestyle and diet.

You can also check out this highly informative podcast by a health expert at MayoClinic:

Podcast: Cholesterol-lowering supplements – Which work and which don’t?


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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.

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