My doctor says I have high cholesterol. Try the diet for 6 months and see if your levels go down, then consider your options.
Would taking supplements over this period be beneficial?
You can’t rely on supplements alone to control your cholesterol. However, there is some good evidence that taking certain supplements while eating a healthy diet can make a difference.
Read more: Do you have high cholesterol? Here are 5 foods to eat and avoid
Why do we worry so much about cholesterol?
There are two main types of cholesterol, both of which affect your risk of heart disease and stroke. Both types are carried in the bloodstream in molecules called lipoproteins.
Low-density lipoprotein or LDL cholesterol
This is often referred to as “bad” cholesterol. This lipoprotein transports cholesterol from the liver to cells throughout the body. High levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood can cause plaque to accumulate in the arteries and cause arteriosclerosis. increased Risk of heart disease and stroke.
High-density lipoprotein or HDL cholesterol
This is often referred to as “good” cholesterol. This lipoprotein helps remove excess cholesterol from the bloodstream and returns it to the liver for processing and excretion. High levels of HDL cholesterol reduction Risk of heart disease and stroke.
Diet plays an important role in lowering blood cholesterol levels, especially LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Healthy food choices are well known. This includes eating more unsaturated (“healthy”) fats (such as olive oil and avocados), saturated (“unhealthy”) fats (such as animal fats) and trans fats (found in some commercial products). ). biscuits, pies, pizza bases).
Read more: Health check: Which is healthier: butter or margarine?
Fiber is your friend
Another way to significantly lower your total and LDL cholesterol levels through your diet is to consume more soluble fiber.
This is a type of fiber that dissolves in water and forms a gel-like substance in the intestines. This gel binds to cholesterol molecules, preventing them from being absorbed into the bloodstream and allowing them to be excreted from the body through feces.
Soluble fiber is found in whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, oats, barley, beans, and lentils.
Read more: Fiber is your body’s natural guide in weight management – eat it in its original fiber package instead of removing carbohydrates from your diet
Fiber supplements such as psyllium
There are also many fiber supplements and food-based products on the market that can help lower cholesterol. These include:
natural water soluble fiberinulin (e.g. Benefiber), psyllium (e.g. Metamucil), or beta-glucan (e.g. oatmeal flour).
synthetic soluble fiberpolydextrose (such as STA-LITE), wheat dextrin (also found in Benefiber), or methylcellulose (such as Citrucel).
natural insoluble fiberbulking up feces such as flaxseed.
Most of these supplements come as fiber that can be added to food or dissolved in water or drinks.
Psyllium is the fiber supplement with the strongest evidence supporting its use in improving cholesterol levels. It has been studied in at least 24 high-quality randomized controlled trials.
These studies showed that consuming approximately 10g of psyllium (1 tablespoon) per day as part of a healthy diet significantly lowers total cholesterol levels by 4% and LDL cholesterol levels by 7%. It has been.
Read more: Health check: Are you eating the right type of fiber?
Other cholesterol-lowering supplements, such as probiotics, are not fiber-based. Probiotics are thought to help lower cholesterol levels through a variety of mechanisms. These include helping the uptake of cholesterol into cells and adjusting the gut microbiome to facilitate the removal of cholesterol through the feces.
Using probiotics to reduce cholesterol is an area of future attention, and research is promising.
In a 2018 study, researchers pooled the results of 32 studies and analyzed them together in a type of research known as a meta-analysis. People who took probiotics reduced their total cholesterol levels by 13%.
Other systematic reviews also support these findings.
Most of these studies have used probiotics, including: Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactiscomes in capsules or powder and is taken daily.
As it turns out, probiotics might be worth a try. However, the effects may vary depending on the probiotic strain you use, whether you take probiotics daily as directed, your health status, and your diet.
Read more: Health check: Should healthy people take probiotic supplements?
red yeast rice
Red yeast rice is also a non-fiber supplement that has received attention for its cholesterol-lowering effects. It is often used as a complementary therapy in Asia and some European countries. It comes in capsule form and is thought to mimic the role of cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins.
A 2022 systematic review analyzed data from 15 randomized controlled trials. They found that compared to statins, taking red yeast supplements (200 to 4,800 mg per day) was more effective in lowering blood fats known as triglycerides, but less effective in lowering total cholesterol.
However, these trials do not tell us whether red yeast rice is effective or safe in the long term. The authors also noted that only one study in the review was registered in a major clinical trial database. Therefore, we do not know whether the evidence base was complete or whether it was biased toward publishing only studies with positive results.
Diet and supplements alone may not be enough
Be sure to talk to your doctor or nutritionist about your plans to take supplements to lower your cholesterol.
However, keep in mind that dietary changes alone, with or without supplements, may not be enough to lower your cholesterol levels sufficiently. You still need to stop smoking, reduce stress, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep. Genetics may also play a role.
Still, depending on your cholesterol levels and other risk factors, cholesterol-lowering drugs such as statins may be recommended. Her doctor will discuss her options at her 6-month review.