Can Metamucil Help Lower My Total Cholesterol?

Medically reviewed by Natalie Butler, RD, LD on October 26, 2015Written by Annette McDermott on October 26, 2015

What Is Metamucil?

Metamucil is a bulk-forming fiber laxative made from psyllium. Psyllium is a fiber that comes from Plantago ovata seed husks. It absorbs liquid in the intestine and swells. This helps produce softer, bulkier stools that lead to improved bowel movements.

What Are Bulk-Forming Laxatives?

Psyllium has been used as a natural remedy for ages. Metamucil didn’t come on the scene until 1934. According to Metamucil’s website, the product contains 100 percent natural psyllium husk fiber. In addition to lowering cholesterol and promoting regularity, Metamucil is thought to help you feel fuller between meals and help maintain blood sugar levels.

How Does Metamucil Affect Cholesterol?

Psyllium is a natural product. It may reduce total cholesterol and low density lipoprotein (LDL). LDL, also known as “bad” cholesterol, contributes to clogged arteries and may lead to stroke and heart attack.

Psyllium is believed to help absorb waste, bile acids, and cholesterol, which are removed from the body during bowel movements. This may be due to its ability to swell and form a thick gel.

What the Research Shows

A 1990 study concluded that psyllium could help lower cholesterol. This led to additional research into the effects of psyllium on cholesterol. In 2000, a meta-analysis was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN). It looked at eight studies on the cholesterol-lowering benefits of psyllium. Researchers determined psyllium significantly lowered LDL cholesterol in participants who were already consuming a low-fat diet. No significant differences were noted between men and women, but older age groups had the largest decrease in LDL cholesterol.

According to a more recent study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (EJCN), psyllium may help reduce triglycerides in people with type 2 diabetes. The study followed 40 people with type 2 diabetes. They were treated with sulfonylureas, or antidiabetes drugs, and a prescribed, controlled diet. Study participants were either given psyllium three times per day or assigned to a control group. The control group was only given the controlled diet. Those treated with psyllium had significantly lower triglycerides. People in the control group experienced no change.

A 2011 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition also found a connection between psyllium and cholesterol. Researchers concluded that adding psyllium to a normal or high-fiber diet resulted in lower LDL and total cholesterol levels.

How to Use Metamucil

Metamucil is available in a variety of forms, including:

  • powder
  • wafer
  • health bar
  • capsule

Wafers and health bars are great sources of fiber, but they’re not recommended to lower cholesterol. According to Metamucil’s website, the following dosages are needed to reduce cholesterol:

TypeDosage
Smooth texture, sugar-free, orange, and berry burst powders 3 level teaspoons three times per day
Smooth texture orange powder4 level teaspoons three times per day
Original texture unflavored powder3 level teaspoons three times per day
Capsules plus calcium5 capsules four times per day

You should take each Metamucil dose with at least eight ounces of water and drink plenty of fluids throughout the day. Check with your doctor to confirm the proper dose for you.

Metamucil Side Effects and Precautions

Metamucil is well tolerated by most people. However, side effects may occur, such as:

  • gas
  • nausea
  • stomach pain
  • bloating

To decrease your risk of discomfort, start with a lower dose and increase it gradually.

There are also additional side effects and precautions to consider when using psyllium. Some people may experience mild allergic reactions, such as hives, swollen nasal passages, swollen eyelids, and asthma. Metamucil may also cause rare, severe allergic reactions, such as:

  • flushing
  • severe itching
  • shortness of breath
  • throat tightness
  • chest tightness
  • wheezing
  • swelling
  • loss of consciousness

You should not take Metamucil if you have:

  • fecal impaction
  • narrowing of the colon
  • bowel obstruction
  • spastic bowel

Metamucil may also lead to a drop in your blood pressure.

If you’re planning to have surgery, you should stop taking Metamucil two weeks before the surgery. This is to avoid a potentially dangerous drop in blood sugar.

Metamucil may also interact with the following drugs or impact their effectiveness or potency:

  • lithium (Lithobid, Lithane)
  • carbamazepine (Tegretol, Carbatrol, Equetro, Epitol)
  • antidiabetes drugs
  • drugs for high blood pressure
  • warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven)
  • digoxin (Digox, Lanoxin)
  • herbs and supplements that lower blood pressure
  • herbs and supplements that lower blood sugar
  • iron

Talk to Your Doctor About Lowering Cholesterol

Metamucil may be a natural alternative to cholesterol-lowering drugs. When combined with a healthy diet and exercise, it may help lower cholesterol on its own or increase the effectiveness of cholesterol-lowering drugs. Talk with your doctor about your options for lowering your cholesterol. They can help you determine if taking Metamucil is right for you.

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