Walking into any pharmacy, you can be overwhelmed by the wide variety of supplements available. Which of these supplements can help to lower cholesterol? By putting this blog together, I will hope to answer this question for you.
Using supplements to maintain optimum levels of cholesterol in the blood, is important because it can have a great impact on the health of your heart. High cholesterol usually has no clear symptoms, but it is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Along with dietary changes, a number of supplements may be effective in helping you to control your cholesterol levels and reduce the risk to your heart. I will be discussing 6 different supplements and the possible side effects with their use.
What is high cholesterol ?
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance circulating in the blood. The body needs a certain amount of cholesterol to maintain cell membranes and perform other vital functions. Have high levels of low-density lipoprotein [LDL], which is referred to as ‘bad cholesterol’, can lead to artery blockage and heart complications [https://jules4heart.com/the-foods-to-lower-cholesterol/].
Cholesterol is measured in milligrams per deciliter [mg/dl]. Here are the healthy levels of cholesterol, based on your age and gender:
|Anyone aged 19 and younger|
|Type of cholesterol||Healthy level|
|Total cholesterol||Less than 170mg/dl|
|Men aged 20 and over|
|Total cholesterol||125 to 200mg/dl|
|LDL||Less than 100mg/dl|
|HDL||40mg/dl or higher|
|Women aged 20 and older|
|Total cholesterol||125 to 200mg/dl|
|LDL||Less than 100mg/dl|
|HDL||50mg/dl or higher|
The fat in fish contains a class of polyunsaturated fatty acid called Omega-3. These fatty acids differ from the polyunsaturated fatty acids found in vegetable oils, called Omega-6. They both have different effects on the body. The two most potent forms of omega-3 – Eicosapentaenoic acid [EPA] and Docosaphexanoic acid [DHA] – are found in abundance in cold-water fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel and tuna. The sources of a third type of omega-3, alpha-linolenic acid [ALA], are found in certain vegetable oils [such as flax seed oil] and leafy greens [such as purslane].
Fish oils can be beneficial in reducing your risk of heart disease. This is achieved in a number of ways. With the presence of omega-3, this causes the platelets in your blood to be less likely to clump together and form the clots that lead to heart attacks. Secondly, omega-3 can reduce the rate at which the liver produces triglycerides [https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/triglycerides/art-20048186]. Recent research has also shown that omega-3 strengthens the heart’s electrical system, preventing heart rhythm abnormalities.
Adults are recommended to eat at least two servings of omega-3 rich fish a week. Women who are pregnant or planning to have children should limit the amount of fish they consume. This is due to them being susceptible to the potential effects of toxins in fish. If you don’t enjoy eating fish and you are struggling to get the recommended amount of omega-3 in your diet, then I would recommend fish oil supplements. Taking high doses of omega-3 fatty acids can inhibit blood clotting, especially if you are on blood thinning medication or have diabetes. So it is important to consult with your doctor before you start taking fish-oil supplements.
Possible side effects:-
- Feeling bloated
It is adviseable to try and get omega-3 directly from food sources, but if you choose to use supplements then please take these points into consideration:-
- Take omega-3 oil rather than fish liver oil.
- Please be aware of the vitamin A content. The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition [SACN] advises not to take more than 1.5mg [1500ug] a day from food and supplements combined.
- Do not take supplements containing Vitamin A if you are pregnant or planning to have a baby.
- Please be aware that the supplement dosage will be different for a child and an adult [https://www.bda.uk.com/foodfacts/supplements.pdf].
This is a natural substance that is produced by your body and it belongs to a family of compounds called Quinones. The word coenzyme means an enzyme that acts in conjunction with other enzymes to speed up the metabolic process. Providing the energy that cells need to digest food, heal wounds, maintain healthy muscles and perform bodily functions.
Higher concentrations of the coenzyme are found in the heart than any other organ. It helps the heart to beat more than 100,000 times each day. People with heart disease have up to 25 percent less coenzyme than their healthy peers [https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-coenzyme-q10/art-20362602].
In addition, this natural substance acts as an antioxidant, much like vitamin C and E. It piggybacks on the LDL particles as they travel around the body, helping to protect them from oxidation. Therefore, neutralizing the cell-damaging molecules known as free radicals.
Despite coenzyme Q10 being manufactured in the body, unfortunately our blood levels of this substance decreases with age. They are also lower in people with hypertension, atherosclerosis, diabetes and those prescribed statins [to lower cholesterol levels]. Studies have found that cholesterol-lowering statin drugs deplete coenzyme Q10 by interfering with the body’s ability to make the compound.
Therefore, anyone with high LDL levels and anyone taking a statin drug should seriously consider supplementing their diet with coenzyme Q10. Please consult with your doctor before you start taking the supplement.
The general dosage for coenzyme Q10 is 50mg twice a day. Higher dosages of 100mg twice a day maybe useful for heart or circulatory problems. Most research suggests that this supplement is generally safe, even in large doses. In rare cases it may cause stomach upset, diarrhea, nausea or a loss of appetite.
When you choose your coenzyme Q10 supplement, please ensure the product is certified, is of the highest quality and contains a consistent amount of the compound.
While coenzyme Q10 is generally quite safe and well tolerated by most adults, you need to be aware of mild side effects:-
- Stomach upset
- Loss of appetite
- Upper abdominal pain
- Light sensitivity
By dividing up your total daily dose of coenzyme Q10 into smaller amounts 2 or 3 times a day, can help you to reduce possible side effects.
This is derived from the seeds of plantago ovata [a herb grown worldwide but mainly in India] and is a commonly used source of soluble fibre. It is able to absorb excess water from the intestine to make large and soft stools. It is also able to bind to cholesterol which is then expelled. It is therefore useful in reducing cholesterol levels in the bloodstream.
Research has been undertaken among men and women to evaluate the long-term effectiveness of psyllium husk fibre on treating people diagnosed with primary hypercholesterolemia [high cholesterol]. Eligible subjects with bad cholesterol [LDL] concentrations between 70 and 85mg/dl were randomly assigned to receive either 5.1g of psyllium or a cellulose placebo twice daily for 26 weeks.
Results showed a significant reduction of 6.7 percent in LDL cholesterol concentrations among men and women with primary hypercholesterolemia than those in the placebo group [https://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1475-2891-3-17]
According to the Harvard Medical School, you need to consume 10-20g of psyllium husk per day with 8 ounces of water in order to lower cholesterol. This is taken three times a day, just before each meal. Taking more than this, can cause serious digestive problems. It would be adviseable to start with a smaller dose each day and then slowly build up to the full dose [https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/how-much-psyllium-is-needed-to-lower-cholesterol].
Available in powder form, it can also be stirred into juice or water before drinking.
The most common side effects are:-
Arginine or L-arginine is a chemical building block called an “amino acid”. This is eventually converted to nitric oxide in your body. Nitric oxide plays a vital role in the health of your arteries and ultimately your heart.
This compound is mainly produced in the lining of blood vessels [endothelium]. Nitric oxide helps to maintain the patency of the vessels by increasing blood flow and preventing fatty deposits from sticking to the endothelium. Therefore, inhibiting the walls from getting too sticky and stiff.
US heart specialist, Professor John Cooke, gave 43 volunteers large doses of L-arginine [6.21g per day]. Research showed their blood flow and artery flexibility improved significantly after just one week. Professor Cooke also found supplementing with this same compound was effective in reducing the likelihood of plaque and clots in the bloodstream, by reducing the stickiness of blood platelets and white blood cells.
- Stomach upset
Possible drug interactions:-
- Anti-coagulant and anti-platelet medication has the effect of reducing blood clotting. Therefore, to supplement with L-arginine can put you at greater risk of bleeding.
- Hypertensive drugs can be effective at lowering high blood pressure. But there is a risk that your blood pressure will drop too low, if L-arginine supplements are used alongside this medication.
- Research has shown that L-arginine can be effective in lowering blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. If you are also taking diabetic tablets, then this supplement will affect your insulin dosages and will need to be adjusted accordingly.
It is adviseable to consult with your doctor before you start supplementing your diet with L-arginine because of the contraindications with other medication.
This is a herb that has valuable medicinal properties due to its high concentration of antioxidants known as flavonoids.
Hawthorn can have beneficial effects on the heart. It is able to widen the arteries, by interfering with enzymes [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angiotensin-converting_enzyme], which constricts blood vessels. This action therefore improves blood flow through the arteries. By blocking these enzymes, hawthorn supplements have the double effect of strengthening the pumping action of the heart.
Antioxidant properties of the herb may also help to protect against damage associated with the build-up of plaque in the coronary arteries.
Animal studies have shown that the hawthorn extract has the ability to lower total cholesterol and LDL in the blood. More research is needed to provide clear evidence of its effectiveness in humans.
Hawthorn extract is widely regarded as one of the safest herbal preparations. But you need to be aware of some reported side effects. These include:-
- Fast heart rate
The leaves of the artichoke contain several substances that have beneficial effects when consumed. Artichoke contains Cynarin and various flavanoids, particularly Luteolin.
Scientific research dating back to the 1930s showed that artichoke leaf extract was able to reduce cholesterol levels in patients with hypercholesterolemia [high cholesterol]. These findings have been substantiated by research published in 2000, which showed 143 people who took 450mg of artichoke extract tablets for six weeks – were able to lower total cholesterol by 18.5 percent and reduce LDL by 22.9 percent. This was in comparison to the placebo group, who had an 8.6 percent reduction in total cholesterol and 6.3 percent drop in LDL.
Another study found that the artichoke extract was able to lower the levels of LDL and at the same time to slightly raise the levels of HDL. There is speculation that the cholesterol lowering properties of this substance, is due to the presence of cynarin. This increases the production of bile in the liver and the flow of bile from the gallbladder. These actions help the body to excrete cholesterol.
Artichoke leaf extract is well tolerated by most people, even after long tern use. In a small number of people, this supplement can cause flatulence and mild gastrointestinal problems.
I believe that supplements may be helpful in lowering cholesterol levels. It must be emphasized though, that no dietary supplement is a substitute for the lifestyle changes and improved eating habits that can contribute to good health.
If your doctor prescribes medication to reduce your cholesterol, then I would advise that you continue with your drug regime. Before introducing supplements to your diet, please ensure you consult with your doctor.
I hope this blog has given you a greater awareness of some supplements available, that have the potential of lowering your high cholesterol levels.
I would welcome comments about which supplements are currently being used to lower cholesterol levels and any side effects or problems with their usage.