Natural Remedies for Cholesterol – Are They Proven?

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Written by Mita Majumdar, M.Sc. | Medically Reviewed by The Medindia Medical Review Team  on Jul 19, 2018
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Natural Remedies for Cholesterol – Are They Proven?

Although health practitioners recommend lifestyle changes such as consuming a balanced diet and exercising as the first line of defense against high cholesterol, there is a choice of medication to control the problem.

The choice of medication for lowering cholesterol levels includes:

  • Statins, viz., atorvastatin (Lipitor), lovastatin (Altoprev, Mevacor), simvastatin (Zocor), etc., that block the substance the liver needs to make cholesterol.
  • Bile acid binding resins such as cholestyramine (Prevalite) that lower cholesterol by binding to bile acids needed for digestion and eliminate it from the body through feces. This prompts the liver to use excess cholesterol to make more bile acids.
  • Cholesterol absorption inhibitors such as ezetimibe (Zetia) that limit absorption of dietary cholesterol by the small intestine, thus reducing blood cholesterol.
  • Combination drug, viz., ezetimibe-simvastatin (Vytorin) that decreases absorption of dietary cholesterol by the small intestine and reduces production of cholesterol in the liver.
  • Fibrates, Niacin and Omega-3 fatty acid supplements that decrease high triglyceride levels.

A closer look will reveal that the natural remedy red rice yeast too contains substances that act in the same way as statins. However, reports from Mayo Clinic mark some brands of red yeast rice containing lovastatin as unsafe since they believe there’s no way to determine the quantity or quality of the lovastatin in the supplement. On the other hand, Dr Andrew Weil opines that since ‘red rice yeast extract delivers a mix of naturally occurring statins rather than a single type of molecule, it is much less likely to cause the side effects that sometimes occur with the pharmaceutical versions’. However, the supplement (for that matter even the drug) has to be taken indefinitely. Moreover, statins inhibit the body’s natural synthesis of CoQ10, so it is necessary to take 90 to 120 mg of CoQ10 everyday, along with the supplement or the drug.

Another supplement lecithin, found in soybean and egg yolk, and used as a natural remedy for high cholesterol has no takers in the evidence-based scientific community. Here Dr Weil says, ‘Claims that lecithin can lower cholesterol are based on the fact that it contains polyunsaturated fatty acids. But, again, I've seen no evidence to support this. I recommend lecithin only to patients with multiple sclerosis as a way of strengthening nerve sheaths, which are the targets of that disease and are composed of myelin, a derivative of lecithin’.

Similarly, there is no documented evidence on garlic, a popular ayurvedic remedy for high cholesterol, regarding its influence on serum lipoproteins. Dr Michael Richman from The Center for Cholesterol Management believes that although garlic does have cardiovascular effects since ‘it inhibits platelet clumping in the blood and increases bleeding risks when taken with clopidogrel (Plavix), warfarin (Coumadin), and aspirin’.

Evening primrose oil is yet another natural remedy for cholesterol which has not been regulated or investigated by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). Some believe that this remedy may be harmful if taken for more than a few months, so taking frequent breaks from evening primrose oil treatment is suggested.

However, there is no contradiction as far as dietary soluble fibers are concerned, regarding lowering of high cholesterol. Both schools agree that soluble fiber in the form of dried beans, certain fruits and vegetables, psyllium, and especially oats and oat bran have demonstrated positive results in lowering LDL cholesterol. The National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine gives the following daily recommendations on dietary soluble fibers for adults:

  • Men – 50 years and younger – 38 g
  • Men – 51 years and older – 30 g
  • Women – 50 years and younger – 25 g
  • Women – 51 years and older – 21 g

In the end, an integrative program that combines natural remedies, healthy dietary habits, and regular exercise is the most successful treatment for controlling cholesterol if it is not too high. But if all these measures fail, it is necessary to get professional help and go for conventional treatment of high cholesterol.

References:

  1. American Heart Association News - (http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=183)
  2. Dasgupta S, Bhattacharyya DK, ‘Dietary effect of gamma-linolenic acid on the lipid profile of rat fed erucic acid rich oil,’ J Oleo Sci. 2007; 56(11):569-77.
  3. Singer P, Hoffmann P, Beitz J, Förster W, Wirth M, Gödicke W, ‘Serum triglycerides and HDL cholesterol from SHR after evening primrose oil and other polyunsaturated fats,’ Prostaglandins Leukot Med., May 1986, ;22(2):173-7.
  4. Heber D, Yip I, Ashley JM, Elashoff DA, Elashoff RM, Go VL. ‘Cholesterol-lowering effects of a proprietary Chinese red-yeast-rice dietary supplement,’ Am J Clin Nutr., Feb 1999; 69(2):231-6.
  5. Spilburg CA, Goldberg AC, McGill JB, Stenson WF, Racette SB, Bateman J, McPherson TB, Ostlund RE Jr., ‘Fat-free foods supplemented with soy stanol-lecithin powder reduce cholesterol absorption and LDL cholesterol,’ J Am Diet Assoc., May 2003; 103(5):577-81.
  6. Rosch PJ., ‘Stress, cholesterol, and coronary heart disease,’ Lancet 1983; 322: 851-852.


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Rakesh2000

Thanks for u r guidance over cholesterol.... my main question is how can I improve my HDL ..... its very low...... 26. I'm 42 years old rakesh thakar

Thanks for such a good article . I would like to add Flaxseeds[Alasi in hindi] to the above mention list of food to reduce cholesterol. Not many people know about flax seeds. Flax seeds(Alasi in hindi) are also good source of Omega 3 acid and helps to reduce cholesterol . Flax seeds are a rich source of the valuable omega-3 unsaturated fatty acid, alpha linolenic acid. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential in your diet. Like vitamins, they can't be made in your body and must come from foods or supplements. By increasing your omega-3 fatty-acid intake, you will produce a healthier ratio of these prostaglandins (hormone-like substances) in your body. Flax seeds have become more and more popular in recent years, due to their health-protective properties. Most notably, reducing the risk of heart disease, as well as the prevention of some cancers. Flax seeds are a rich source of alpha-linolenic acid. This is the plant-derived type of omega-3 fats, which has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol, as well as triglycerides levels. Flax seeds also contain both insoluble and soluble fiber. Soluble fiber is thought to aid in lowering cholesterol, by preventing the absorption of cholesterol within the body. Flax seeds are a valuable addition to your diet, to help decrease your risk of heart disease. Probably the most important and widely studied benefit of the omega-3 fatty acids is for the cardiovascular system. Lipid profiles, electrical conduction in the heart, platelet function, even blood pressure are optimized by omega-3 fatty acid intake. We should consume it daily . It is number one nutrition food item .Search online for more health benefit details of flax seed. You can buy it from nearby store or online and it is quite cheap as compare to other healthy items like almonds(more healthy and tasty mamra badam(almonds) is more expensive than California badam) and roasted flax seeds better in test than other natural food items which reduce cholesterol like Garlic, Oat,onions etc. Finally , it is up to you decide best suitable combination for your health.

Dr.Seth

Recent research on Coronary Artery disease [heart disease] indicated the overall cholesterol to be within normal range in close to 60% of the cases. So high cholesterol by itself does not predispose to CAD. Other factors like life style diet and activity level are equally important.

My LDL is 144 and HDL is 30 mg/dl. what are the consequences especially heart Further my SGOT is 169 and SGPT is 106 iu/l and am a sugar patient Kindly provide me the consultancy on the consequences omyhealth


I'd like to inform you about this product i recently discovered that is helping me a lot in my vegan diet and cholesterol problem. This is Olive an olive tree leaves’ water infusion.

Hey Manuel, it's really great news! I will also try it once in a while to keep my cholesterol levels in check.

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