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6 Supplements That Won’t Lower Your Cholesterol

6 Supplements That Won't Lower Your Cholesterol
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A big reason patients are passing on the pill, experts say, is misinformation.

“Unfortunately, many US consumers believe cholesterol health supplements are safer than prescription medications and believe supplements are as effective, or more effective, than statins,” says Luke Laffin, MD, study coauthor and codirector of the Center for Blood Pressure Disorders in the Heart , Vascular & Thoracic Institute at Cleveland Clinic.

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For this recent study, 190 participants between the ages of 40 and 75 were randomized to take one of eight pills for 28 days: the low-dose statin medication rosuvastatin (5 mg daily), a placebo, fish oil, cinnamon, garlic, turmeric , plant sterols or red yeast rice. Those who took the statin saw a nearly 40 percent reduction in LDL cholesterol and a 24 percent decrease in total cholesterol. Blood triglycerides (a type of fat found in the blood) were also reduced. Participants taking the supplements or placebo, however, saw no significant benefit.

What’s more, no adverse events were reported in any of the groups. “The safety of statins has been established over decades in studies involving literally millions of patients,” Nissen says, adding that some people may experience muscle aches when taking a statin, but that can typically alleviate bed by adjusting the dosage or switching brands.

“This is a class of medication that’s probably made more of a difference in reducing the morbidity and mortality of heart disease than any other drug class ever developed,” Nissen adds.

Optimal Cholesterol Levels

Curious what numbers are considered normal?

  • Total cholesterol: About 150 mg/dL
  • LDL (“bad”) cholesterol: About 100 mg/dL
  • HDL (“good”) cholesterol: At least 40 mg/dL in men and 50 mg/dL in women
  • Triglycerides: Less than 150 mg/dL

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

The authors note a few limitations to the study. The sample size was relatively small and not very diverse, and its duration was 28 days, which was long enough for the statin medication to make a difference in cholesterol levels, but, as Laffin told the American Heart Association, “it is unknown if some of the supplements may require a longer time to have any effect on cholesterol.”

The Council for Responsible Nutrition, the leading trade association representing the dietary supplement industry, released a statement Nov. 6 in response to the study, saying its design “misses the point of supplementation.” The group’s Senior Vice President of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs Andrea Wong said, “Dietary supplements are not intended to be quick fixes and their effects may not be revealed during the course of a study that only spans four weeks, particularly on a multifactorial condition like high cholesterol.”

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