Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Natural Cholesterol Lowering Supplements - Are They Effective Alternatives to Statin Drugs

Natural Cholesterol Lowering Supplements - Are They Effective Alternatives to Statin Drugs
By Marya Carlos

Cholesterol is a lipid (a fatty substance) that forms part of the outer lining of cells in animal bodies. In humans, cholesterol also appears in the blood circulation. Over the past several decades, a connection has been established between elevated levels of cholesterol and strokes, heart attacks, and other problems.

As a result, much research has been done into methods of controlling cholesterol levels by means of diet and exercise, and with the addition of various supplements to lower these levels.

Several natural nutrients have been shown to equal or outperform the statin drugs in reducing high cholesterol by lowering LDL ("bad") cholesterol and increasing HDL ("good") cholesterol, as well as in lowering triglycerides (blood fats). Triglycerides act with cholesterol to form blood plasma, and they are not affected by the statins.

Let's examine some of the natural cholesterol lowering supplements that are generally known to have no adverse side effects.

* Green tea extract. Green tea extract has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol and levels of triglycerides, as well as to raise HDL cholesterol.

* Policosanol. This is an extract of sugar cane wax, which in some studies has been shown to lower cholesterol naturally. No side effects have been identified.

* Beta-sitosterol. This plant compound occurs naturally in wheat germ, corn oil, rice, and soybeans. It can decrease the digestive system's absorption of cholesterol, as well as decrease the amount of cholesterol produced by the liver. Other possible benefits of beta-sitosterol are reduction of enlarged prostate in men, decreasing risk of gallstones, and protecting the lining of the digestive tract.

* Guggulipid extract. This ancient herb from India has been used in Asia for thousands of years to treat various conditions. Some clinical trials have shown it to be an effective natural cholesterol lowering supplement, but others have not.

* Vitamin B3 (Niacin). Niacin has been shown in several well-designed studies to lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, as well as raising HDL cholesterol. It is available both as a dietary supplement and in prescription form. The American Heart Association cautions that niacin should only be used to lower cholesterol under the supervision of a qualified health practitioner, because of possible side effects. Among these are liver inflammation, high blood sugar, gout, and increasing the effect of high blood pressure medication.

* Artichoke leaf extract. Several controlled studies have shown that artichoke leaf extract may lower cholesterol by limiting its synthesis in the body.

If you are concerned about your cholesterol levels, talk with your physician before deciding to use natural cholesterol lowering supplements for reducing high cholesterol. Be aware of possible side effects from any product you are taking, and be sure to have your doctor arrange for regular blood tests to monitor effects.

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