Best supplements for cholesterol: The plant supplement proven to lower cholesterolSeptember 8, 2019
BEST supplements for cholesterol: High cholesterol can hike a person’s risk of developing potentially fatal complications. Fortunately, following a certain lifestyle can help to keep cholesterol under control. Evidence backs taking a certain plant supplement.
High cholesterol happens when a person has too much of a fatty substance called cholesterol in their blood. It is strongly tied to unhealthy lifestyle habits such as eating fatty food, not exercising enough, being overweight, smoking and drinking alcohol. A build-up of cholesterol can block a person’s blood vessels, making them more likely to have heart problems or a stroke. There are a number of ways people can lower cholesterol, including adding a plant sterol supplement to their diet.
Plant sterols are a group of substances made in plants.
Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis studied patients who already were eating a heart-healthy diet and taking statin drugs to control cholesterol.
The addition of plant sterols helped further lower total cholesterol and contributed to a nearly 10 per cent reduction in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the so-called “bad” cholesterol.
According to the study, most sterol-containing foods studied have been brands of margarine.
Studies have found that a daily intake of one or two tablespoons of sterol-containing margarine could significantly lower LDL cholesterol.
Some juices and puddings also contain plant sterols.
“One problem is many of our patients already have lowered their intake of fats and calories and don’t use products like margarine on a regular basis,” says Anne Carol Goldberg, M.D., lead author of the new study and associate professor of medicine at Washington University. “In addition, many of these people eat out regularly, and they can’t easily take a particular brand of margarine to a restaurant.”
To deliver the sterols in pill form, the plant compounds were combined with a substance called lecithin and compressed into tablets.
When mixed with lecithin, the normally insoluble sterols are able to dissolve in water and get absorbed in the intestine.
Goldberg’s team studied 26 patients who were following the American Heart Association Heart Healthy Diet and taking statin drugs to control cholesterol. Over six weeks, half were randomly assigned to take inactive placebo pills while the rest took sterol tablets.
All patients ingested four tablets, twice daily with meals, while continuing to take statin drugs.
After treatment, those who took the sterol pills averaged a nine percent reduction in LDL cholesterol and a six percent decline in total cholesterol. And Goldberg’s team found that the higher the LDL before the study began, the greater the drop in the bad cholesterol.
“Those who started with higher LDL got a bigger response, a bigger drop in their LDL, when they added plant sterols to their regimen,” Goldberg said.
The plant sterols appear to provide an effective way to lower cholesterol levels, especially LDL cholesterol, according to Goldberg. But she said the sterols probably will work best when given as an additional therapy, and she recommends they be used in combination with diet and/or cholesterol-lowering statin drugs.
“This type of treatment would be in addition to dietary changes and other medication,” she said.
Goldberg added: “There probably are some people who have very mild abnormalities in cholesterol who could get by with a sterol supplement alone, but people with higher cholesterol levels will need medication, too. They’ll take plant sterols in addition to other therapies and benefit from the additive effect we observed in this study.”
Other studies support the case for taking sterol supplements.
A meta-analysis of plant sterol supplement studies suggested an eight per cent lowering of low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol for 2 to 2.5 g/day of plant sterols.
Plant sterols can be taken in supplement form but they are also found in food.
Interestingly, cereal foods have been rarely tested, and one study showed a lower LDL lowering of 5.4 per cent with 1.6 g of plant sterol in breakfast cereal.
Sterols and stanols are naturally found in a range of plant sources including vegetable oils, grain products such as breads and cereals, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables.
According to the British Heart Foundation: “In combination with a balanced diet, eating foods that provide you with 2–2.5g of plant sterols or stanols every day can have an additional cholesterol-lowering benefit.”