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High Cholesterol (cont.)

Other Treatment

Some plant products can help lower high cholesterol. But don't use them to replace your doctor's treatment. Whether or not you use such products, be sure to continue your diet, exercise, and prescription medicines.

As with any new form of treatment, make sure to talk with your doctor first. This is especially important if you take statins. Combining statins and some supplements can cause dangerous side effects.

Psyllium

Psyllium is an ingredient in some dietary supplements—Metamucil, for example. It's a fiber from fleawort and plantago seeds.

Doctors aren't sure how it helps cholesterol levels. It may make the small intestine absorb less cholesterol, so less of it enters your blood.

Psyllium is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The main side effect is increased bowel movements. Products containing psyllium aren't recommended to replace foods as a source of fiber.

Sterol or stanol esters

Sterol and stanol esters are used in cholesterol-lowering margarine spreads.

Sterol esters might limit how much cholesterol the small intestine can absorb.

Red yeast rice

Red yeast rice contains a natural form of lovastatin, a statin medicine. This supplement may keep your body from producing too much cholesterol. But this supplement can cause dangerous side effects.

Talk to your doctor before you try red yeast rice. Serious side effects include rhabdomyolysis and hepatitis. Red yeast rice is not regulated by the FDA, so you cannot be sure of the amount of red yeast in a supplement. This means you cannot be sure of its dose and safety.

If you take red yeast rice, call your doctor right away if you have a bad reaction to it such as severe muscle pain or symptoms of hepatitis.

Do not take red yeast supplements if you are taking statins. Combining them can cause dangerous side effects.

Not recommended for lowering cholesterol

  • Garlic. Eating lots of garlic or taking garlic supplements does not effectively lower cholesterol. And eating too much garlic can have side effects, including allergic reaction, gas, heartburn, garlic odor from the skin, interference with some drugs, and longer blood-clotting time.
  • Very low-fat diets. Although very low-fat diets may indeed lower cholesterol levels, they are not recommended. Very low-fat diets usually allow less than 15% of total calories from fat. In comparison, a cholesterol-reducing diet allows 25% to 35% of calories to come from total fat, with 7% from saturated fat. A diet with less than 25% of its calories from fat can increase triglycerides and decrease HDL (good) cholesterol. Such a diet may deplete your body of other important nutrients and vitamins.
  • Policosanol. Policosanol, which is made from sugar cane, has not been shown to lower cholesterol.
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