Nutritional Supplements for High Cholesterol

Nutritional Supplements for High Cholesterol

Julian Whitaker, MD

Assuming that you’re not willing to risk your muscles, memory, or liver by taking statin cholesterol-lowering drugs, what do you do? There are numerous alternatives, including the following nutritional supplements:

1. Flaxseed

Soluble fiber is important because it binds to bile acids in the intestinal tract and interferes with absorption of cholesterol into the bloodstream. Flaxseed is an excellent source of soluble fiber. It is also the richest plant source of omega-3 essential fatty acids, which improve blood flow, help prevent blood clots, and lower cholesterol and triglycerides. It’s likely this combination of soluble fiber and EFAs that makes flaxseed so effective in reducing cholesterol. Suggested dose: One-quarter cup of freshly ground flaxseed, added to cereal, salads, or other food, or to water or a protein drink.

2. Niacin

This form of vitamin B3 works so well it has been adopted by conventional medicine. Niacin may cause a flush, but you’ll get used to it within a few weeks, and it will dissipate. Although larger doses of niacin (up to 3,000 mg) are often used, 1,000 mg a day will help lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Niacin is also the most effective known agent for raising protective HDL cholesterol. Click here to read more about niacin. Suggested dose: 500-3,000 mg per day, in divided doses. Start low and build up gradually.

3. Red Yeast Rice

Red yeast rice is the fermented product of red yeast (Monascus purpureus) which is cultivated on rice. In 1979, researchers discovered that this traditional Chinese remedy contained monacolin K (also called mevinolin and lovastatin), a substance that inhibits the activity of an enzyme involved in the production of cholesterol. Lovastatin was subsequently synthesized and made into the first of the statin cholesterol-lowering drugs, Mevacor.

Red yeast rice, like the statin drugs, lowers LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and raises protective HDL (by 31 percent, 34 percent, and 20 percent, respectively, according to an eight-week study), but with fewer side effects than the drugs. The dose of monacolin K is much lower, and red yeast rice contains other monacolins, sterols, isoflavones, and fatty acids that also have a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels. Suggested dose: 600-1,200 mg twice a day, or as directed (I suggest starting at the lower dose, then having your cholesterol levels checked after three months and adjusting your dose accordingly. Do not exceed the recommended dose, and do not take along with a statin drug. Because this natural product works on the same enzyme system as statin drugs, albeit in a gentler fashion, it could theoretically also lower CoQ10 levels. Therefore, I recommend that you take at least 100 mg of CoQ10 daily when taking red yeast rice.)

4. Policosanol

Policosanol is a natural substance derived from sugar cane. Scores of studies have shown that policosanol can reduce harmful LDL cholesterol as effectively as the popular statin drugs (Lipitor, Zocor, Pravachol, Lescol, and Mevacor)—and can raise levels of beneficial HDL cholesterol, which is something statin drugs just can’t do.

In one study of 589 older patients with high cholesterol and high blood pressure, policosanol was proven to reduce cholesterol, blood pressure, and heart attack risk when compared to a placebo. This safe, natural substance also decreases the stickiness of blood platelets and has positive effects on the lining of the arteries and the function of the heart muscle. It even improves symptoms of intermittent claudication (pain in the legs while walking, caused by atherosclerosis of the arteries in the legs). Suggested dose: 10 mg per day, taken with a meal. Some people may require as little as 5 mg or as much as 20 mg per day to notice effects.

5. Phytosterols

Phytosterols are plant compounds that lower cholesterol by competing with cholesterol for absorption in the intestinal tract. In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, daily doses of 1,800 to 2,600 mg lowered harmful LDL cholesterol by 14.1 percent. These compounds have also been shown to enhance the immune system and to control benign prostatic hyperplasia. Suggested dose: 1,800 to 2,600 mg per day.

Other Natural Cholesterol Busters

These are by no means the only supplements that help lower cholesterol. Others include tocotrienols (a form of vitamin E), krill oil (which contains omega-3 fatty acids), gugulipids (an Ayurvedic medicine remedy), and other forms of fiber. These supplements all have one thing in common, besides affecting cholesterol levels: Unlike drugs, they will improve your health, not potentially harm you.


  • If you’d like to see a Whitaker Wellness physician for a personalized nutritional supplement program to lower cholesterol, contact a Patient Services Representative at (866) 944-8253 or click here.


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Modified from Health & Healing with permission from Healthy Directions, LLC. Copyright 2007. Photocopying, reproduction, or quotation strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher. To subscribe to Health & Healingclick here.

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