High cholesterol is not dangerous in itself, so why do we need to keep cholesterol levels under control? This is because a high level of cholesterol increases the risk for coronary heart disease and then heart attack.
An optimum level of cholesterol is necessary for providing defense mechanism to the body, protection of red blood cells, and muscular membrane of the body. Since cholesterol cannot dissolve in the blood, it is transported to the cells by carriers known as lipoproteins, especially, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL).
Now, too much of LDL cholesterol in the blood causes formation of plaques in the arteries. This is because smaller particles of LDL easily penetrate the thin layer of cells that line the interior surface of blood vessels, forming an interface between circulating blood and the rest of the vessel wall. This increases the risk for coronary heart disease. The LDL particles also transport cholesterol into the artery wall, where they are retained by ‘filler’ glycoprotein units existing between cells. They attract white blood cells which engulf the LDL particles and start forming plaques.
These plaques clog the arteries and cause heart disease and stroke. A total cholesterol level of 200 mg/dL with LDL cholesterol levels less than 100 mg/dL is desirable. Higher levels of HDL cholesterol are better for the body. HDL cholesterol of less than 40 mg/dL for men and less than 50 mg/dL for women is said to be high risk for heart disease. The normal triglyceride level has to be less than 150 mg/dL.
Natural remedies are a good way to fight cholesterol in case the cholesterol levels are not already high. Here are a few natural remedies for high cholesterol.
- Evening primrose oil: Oil from the evening primrose seed is very rich in gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) which has been found to significantly decrease serum triglyceride (TG) and LDL, and significantly increase HDL cholesterol according to a research published in the Journal of Oleo Science. An earlier study had shown that evening primrose oil was more effective in controlling cholesterol when compared with sunflower oil and linseed oil. It is available for consumption as supplements in the form of capsules or in liquid form.
- Red rice yeast: Red rice yeast extract is an effective natural supplement that helps lower cholesterol. It is a source of naturally occurring statins which form the prescription drugs that are used to control cholesterol. Its cholesterol lowering effects were investigated by researchers from UCLA School of Medicine, who found that hyperlipidemia subjects treated with 2.4 g/day of Chinese red yeast rice dietary supplement for 8 weeks had significantly lower total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triacylglycerol. However, HDL cholesterol did not change significantly. Red rice yeast is readily available in the form of capsules.
- Dietary soluble fiber: That soluble fiber found in beans, oats, guar gum, and psyllium helps lower total blood cholesterol by lowering LDL cholesterol, has been shown by a number of research studies. For example, a meta-analysis of 67 controlled trials by the Harvard School of Public Health researchers revealed that dietary soluble fibers had total cholesterol -- and LDL cholesterol-lowering effects. According to them, ‘3 g soluble fiber from oats (3 servings of oatmeal, 28 g each) can decrease total and LDL cholesterol by approximately 0.13 mmol/L. Increasing soluble fiber can make only a small contribution to dietary therapy to lower cholesterol’.
- Lecithin: Lecithin in the form of granules or capsules helps reduce cholesterol levels in the blood by preventing fats from accumulating on the walls of the arteries, as well as by dissolving the plaques already formed. Lecithin is a phospholipid produced naturally by the liver to emulsify fats. Lecithin is also found naturally in the soybean and egg yolk. A study published in the Journal of American Dietetic Association found that fat free foods supplemented with soy stanol-lecithin powder at 625 mg per day reduced cholesterol absorption by 32.1 percent during the 4-week treatment.
- American Heart Association News - (http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=183)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Rosch PJ., ‘Stress, cholesterol, and coronary heart disease,’ Lancet 1983; 322: 851-852.
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