Stand Up to Heart Disease: Can Supplements Lower Cholesterol?
Solo Supplements Won’t Do
Has your total cholesterol level snuck above 200/mg/dl and you’re scanning the shelves for a supplement to help lower your numbers? While no pill or potion can replace regular exercise and a healthy diet, you may need prescription medication to manage your cholesterol.
Read on to learn which supplements may boost your cholesterol-lowering efforts.
Garlic: Enjoy, But Don’t Count on It
It may vanquish vampires, but garlic shows inconsistent results in lowering cholesterol. Earlier animal and laboratory studies showed potential for garlic to lower cholesterol. But, a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine that compared raw garlic with two garlic supplements failed to confirm those findings.
The study subjects took the equivalent of an average-sized clove of garlic six days a week for six months. None of the three forms of garlic significantly lowered low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or bad cholesterol, in 192 participants.
Fiber in Psyllium Helps Fight Cholesterol
Laxatives such as Metamucil contain the husk of psyllium seeds. Psyllium is a type of plant that grows worldwide. This soluble form of fiber can help knock down total and LDL cholesterol levels when paired with a healthy diet.
The University of Maryland Medical Center notes that a treatment plan which includes psyllium and bile acid sequestrant medication may help reduce cholesterol further.
Artichoke Leaf Extract Is a Maybe
An analysis of three random, placebo-controlled trials of artichoke leaf extract (ALE) showed the potential of lowering cholesterol. In one of the three studies, ALE reduced total cholesterol levels by 18.5 percent. The placebo lowered cholesterol by 8.6 percent.
Researchers concluded that this 10 percent differnece isn’t enough to confirm the benefits of ALE. More studies are needed to demonstrate its effectiveness.
Spread Cholesterol-Lowering Love
Plant-based esters called beta-sitosterol and sitostanol are available as oral supplements and in some margarines. These compounds help prevent your body from absorbing cholesterol from food.
Mayo Clinic conducted a study of 41 clinical trials on foods with plant sterol or stanol esters. Researchers found that consuming 2 grams per day reduced LDL by 10 percent.
Swap the butter on your morning toast for a spread containing beta-sitosterol or sitostanol, and you may help lower your total and LDL cholesterol.
Choose Barley in Food
Eating barley is good for you. That’s why the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows food producers to claim that items containing barley may help reduce heart disease risk. Whole grain barley and dry-milled barley products such as flakes, grits, flour, and pearled barley help lower LDL and total cholesterol.
A small study with 28 people found that a 21-day diet including several nutritional supplements resulted in lower cholesterol. Barley grass juice powder was among the ingredients in one of the supplements.
The bottom line? You could pop a barley pill rather than eat mushroom barley soup, but scientific evidence won’t back you up. Although the results show promise, they’re not enough to demonstrate that barley supplements will decrease cholesterol.
Green Tea: A Cuppa or a Capsule?
Researchers analyzed 14 controlled studies and concluded that drinking green tea or taking green tea extract can lower total cholesterol and LDL. The analysis showed that green tea did not affect high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or good cholesterol.
Another meta-analysis of 20 studies on the effect of green tea confirmed these results. Both the beverage and the extract were shown to lower LDL and total cholesterol effectively, but not HDL or triglycerides.
Oat Bran: Medicine Cabinet or Cupboard?
The soluble fiber in oatmeal and oat bran helps to lower your total cholesterol and LDL by preventing your body from absorbing cholesterol. According to information published in the Journal of Family Practice, you need five to 10 grams of soluble fiber daily to lower your cholesterol. Mayo Clinic recommends eating one-and-a-half cups of oatmeal every morning.
If oatmeal doesn’t sound appetizing, some evidence suggests that oat bran supplements may work. In a study that compared wheat bran and oat bran supplements, eighty-four people took a daily supplement containing 15 to 17 grams of fiber.
Findings showed that oat bran was more effective in lowering cholesterol. However, keep in mind: that much fiber can cause gas and bloating.
A Healthy Mix
Reining in high cholesterol isn’t as easy as swallowing a supplement and forgetting about it. Choose a supplement proven to be effective to help reduce your total cholesterol and LDL. You’ll derive extra benefit if you pair it with a healthy eating plan, such as regular low-fat, high-fiber meals, and exercise.
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