Cholesterol-lowering supplements may be helpful
Date Updated: 11/10/2022
If you're worried about your cholesterol level and have started exercising and eating healthier foods, you might wonder if a dietary supplement could help. With your doctor's OK, here are some cholesterol-improving supplements to consider.
|Cholesterol-improving supplement||What it might do||Side effects and drug interactions|
|Berberine||May reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or "bad") cholesterol and triglycerides||May cause diarrhea, constipation, gas, nausea or vomiting; may cause harm to babies during pregnancy and breastfeeding|
|Fish oil||May reduce triglycerides||May cause a fishy aftertaste, bad breath, gas, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea; may interact with some blood-thinning medications|
|Flaxseed, ground||May reduce LDL cholesterol||May cause gas, bloating or diarrhea; may interact with some blood-thinning medications|
|Garlic||May slightly reduce cholesterol but studies have been conflicting||May cause bad breath, body odor, nausea, vomiting and gas; may interact with some blood-thinning medications|
|Green tea or green tea extract||May lower LDL cholesterol||May cause nausea, vomiting, gas or diarrhea; may interact with blood-thinning medications|
|Niacin||May lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides; may improve high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or "good") cholesterol||May cause itching and flushing, which are more common at the higher doses usually needed to have an effect on cholesterol|
|Plant stanols and sterols||May reduce LDL cholesterol, particularly in people with a genetic condition that causes high cholesterol (familial hypercholesterolemia)||May cause diarrhea|
Red yeast rice — Natural doesn't mean safe
Some red yeast rice products contain a substance (monacolin K) that is chemically identical to the active ingredient in lovastatin (Altoprev), a prescription medication that lowers cholesterol. Because there is variability in quality from manufacturer, the amount of monacolin K can vary widely from product to product.
Products that contain monacolin K can cause the same types of side effects as lovastatin, which include damage to the muscles, kidneys and liver. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration has ruled that dietary supplements that contain more than trace amounts of monacolin K are unapproved drugs and can't be sold legally as dietary supplements.
Dietary supplements may not be enough
While dietary supplements can help, you might also need prescription medications to get your cholesterol numbers to a safe level. Be sure to tell your doctor if you take any type of dietary supplement, because some can interact with medications you may be taking.