From the  FMS Global News Desk of Jeanne Hambleton

Source  National Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicines

Approximately 13 percent of U.S. adults has high total cholesterol. Lowering cholesterol levels can slow down, reduce, or even stop plaque from building up in the walls of arteries and may decrease the chance of having a heart attack. Mainstays in treating high cholesterol include diet, weight loss, physical activity, and when necessary, drug treatment.

National survey data show that high blood cholesterol is one of the top 10 conditions for which people use complementary health practices such as dietary supplements.

Here is what you should know if you have high blood cholesterol:

  1. Work with your health care provider. Ask your health care provider about proven steps you can take to lower your blood cholesterol levels. And be sure to talk with your provider about any complementary health practice you are considering, including dietary supplements. This will help ensure safe and coordinated care.
  2. Change your diet. Saturated fat raises your LDL cholesterol level (often called “bad cholesterol,” the main source of cholesterol buildup and blockage in the arteries) more than anything else in your diet. Diets with too much saturated fat and trans fat are the main cause for high blood cholesterol.
  3. Manage your weight. Losing extra pounds may help lower your LDL and triglycerides (a type of fat found in the blood and in food), while raising your HDL (often called “good cholesterol,” helps keep cholesterol from building up in the arteries).
  4. Get moving. Regular physical activity (such as brisk walking 30 minutes each day) can raise HDL and lower triglycerides, and can help you lose weight and, in that way, help lower your LDL. Aim for a total of at least 150 minutes over the course of a week.
  5. Find out what the science says about dietary supplements marketed for improving cholesterol. The dietary supplements red yeast rice, flaxseed, and garlic, are among the many supplements that have been studied for lowering cholesterol levels. Unfortunately, there isn’t conclusive evidence that any of these supplements are effective in reducing cholesterol levels.


    • Red yeast rice. Some red yeast rice products contain substances called monacolins, which are produced by the yeast. Monacolin K is chemically identical to the active ingredient in the cholesterol-lowering drug lovastatin, and can cause the same types of side effects and drug interactions as lovastatin. Other red yeast rice products contain little or no monacolin K, and it is not known whether these products have any effect on cholesterol levels. Unfortunately, there is no way to know how much monacolin K is present in most red yeast rice products. Further, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has determined that red yeast rice products that contain more than trace amount of monacolin K cannot be sold legally as dietary supplements.
    • Flaxseed. Studies of flaxseed preparations to lower cholesterol levels report mixed results. A 2009 review of the scientific research of flaxseed for lowering cholesterol found modest improvements in cholesterol, seen more often in postmenopausal women and in people with high initial cholesterol concentrations.
    • Garlic. Some evidence indicates that taking garlic supplements can slightly lower blood cholesterol levels; however, an NCCAM-funded study on the safety and effectiveness of three garlic preparations (fresh garlic, dried powdered garlic tablets, and aged garlic extract tablets) for lowering blood cholesterol levels found no effect. Although garlic supplements appear to be safe for most adults, they can thin the blood in a manner similar to aspirin, so use caution if you are planning to have surgery or dental work. Garlic supplements have also been found to interfere with the effectiveness of saquinavir, a drug used to treat HIV infection.


Courtesy of NHS Choices Livewell

Eating a healthy diet and regular exercise can help lower the level of cholesterol in your blood.

Adopting healthy habits, such as eating a healthy balanced diet and exercising, will also help prevent your cholesterol levels from becoming high in the first place.

It is important to keep cholesterol in check because high cholesterol levels increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.

If you are concerned about your cholesterol, talk to your GP.

Foods containing cholesterol

Some foods contain cholesterol. This type of cholesterol is called dietary cholesterol. Foods such as kidneys, eggs and prawns are higher in dietary cholesterol than other foods.

The cholesterol found in food has much less of an effect on the level of cholesterol in your blood than the amount of saturated fat that you eat.

If your GP has advised you to change your diet to reduce your blood cholesterol, the most important thing to do is to cut down on saturated fat. It is also a good idea to increase your intake of fruit, vegetables and fibre.

Fats and cholesterol

There are two main types of fat – saturated and unsaturated. Eating foods that are high in saturated fat can raise cholesterol levels in the blood. Most people in the UK eat too much saturated fat.

Foods high in saturated fat include:

  • meat pies
  • sausages and fatty cuts of meat
  • butter
  • ghee ( a butter that has had its milk solids removed)
  • lard
  • cream
  • hard cheese
  • cakes and biscuits
  • foods containing coconut or palm oil

Eating foods that contain unsaturated fat instead of saturated fat can actually help reduce cholesterol levels.

Try to replace foods containing saturated fats with foods that are high in unsaturated fats, such as:

  • oily fish (such as mackerel and salmon)
  • nuts (such as almonds and cashews)
  • seeds (such as sunflower and pumpkin)
  • vegetable oils and spreads (such as sunflower, olive, corn, walnut and rapeseed oils)

Trans fats can also raise cholesterol levels. Trans fats can be found naturally at low levels in some foods, such as those from animals, including meat and dairy products. (http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/trans-fat/art-20046114)


Artificial trans fats can be found in hydrogenated fat, so some processed foods such as biscuits and cakes will contain trans fats.

As part of a healthy diet, try to cut down on foods containing trans fats or saturated fats and replace them with foods containing unsaturated fats.

You should also reduce the total amount of fat in your diet. Try microwaving, steaming, poaching, boiling or grilling instead of roasting or frying. Choose lean cuts of meat and go for low-fat varieties of dairy products and spreads, or eat just a small amount of full-fat varieties.

Fibre and cholesterol

There are two different types of fibre – soluble fibre and insoluble fibre. Most foods contain a mixture of both.

Soluble fibre can be digested by your body (insoluble fibre cannot), and it may help reduce the amount of cholesterol in your blood.

Good sources of soluble fibre include:

  • oats
  • beans
  • peas
  • lentils
  • chickpeas
  • fruit and vegetables

Try to include more of these foods in your diet. Aim to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables each day. Find out more about eating   5 A DAY. (http://www.nhs.uk/LiveWell/5ADAY/Pages/5ADAYhome.aspx)

Cholesterol-lowering products

There’s evidence that foods containing certain added ingredients, such as plant sterols and stanols, can reduce levels of cholesterol in the blood.

Sterols and stanols can be found in specially developed products, such as some spreads and yoghurts.

These foods are aimed at people who need to lower their cholesterol levels. People who don’t have high cholesterol shouldn’t eat these products regularly, particularly children and pregnant or breastfeeding women.

If your doctor has told you that you have high cholesterol, you can lower it by changing your diet without having to eat special products.

If you do eat foods that are designed to lower cholesterol, read the label carefully to avoid eating too much.

Get active

An active lifestyle can also help lower cholesterol levels. Activities can range from walking and cycling to more vigorous exercise, such as running and dancing.

Doing 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week can improve your cholesterol levels.

Moderate-intensity aerobic activity means you’re working hard enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat (http://www.nhs.uk/LiveWell/Fitness/Pages/Fitnesshome.aspx)

One way to tell whether you are working at a moderate intensity is if you can still talk but you can’t sing the words to a song.

Find out more about getting more active and achieving your recommended activity levels.

Download Losing weight – Getting started, a 12-week weight loss guide combining advice on healthier eating and physical activity – http://www.nhs.uk/Tools/Pages/Losing-weight.aspx




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