No-one likes to hear that they have high cholesterol. For a start, because there are no early warning symptoms it can be a shock when you learn about the increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Conventional medical wisdom usually means statins are prescribed, without necessarily thinking of alternatives. Billions of pounds in revenue for the pharmaceutical industry is generated and we think we have no choice.
But we do.
As with many potentially life-saving drugs, there are side effects from statins. These can range from muscle pain, liver damage, increased risk of type 2 diabetes and neurological damage. Whilst we always recommend you consult your doctor, educating yourself about the possible benefits of dietary management can be really empowering - and might mean you can avoid over-medicating.
Here are our tips for managing your cholesterol levels for optimum health:
- Low-cholesterol diet
While the liver is the major source of blood cholesterol, dietary cholesterol can also be an important factor. The best way to reduce cholesterol in your diet is to minimise saturated fat, which is found primarily in animal products, such as red meat and dairy products. Try to reduce these to once or twice per week, so your dietary cholesterol intake is less than 300mg per day.
- Soluble fibre
Soluble fibre found in vegetables, legumes and fruit is highly effective in lowering cholesterol levels. Try to eat 35g per day from fibre-rich foods such as oat bran, oatmeal, apples, citrus fruits, strawberries, beans, peas, barley and lentils.
Also known as B3, niacin has long been known to be effective in lowering blood cholesterol levels. In the 1970s, the Coronary Drug Project demonstrated that niacin was the only cholesterol-lowering agent to actually reduce overall mortality. Niacin typically lowers low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol - sometimes referred to ‘bad’ cholesterol - by 16-23% while raising the ‘good’ high density lipid cholesterol by 20-33%.
For best results, use intermediate time-release niacin (don't take ‘non-blushing niacin’ as this can cause liver damage). Take it in the evening, as most cholesterol synthesis occurs during sleep. Start with a dose of 500mg and increase to 1,500mg after two weeks. If after one month of therapy the dosage of 1,500mg fails to effectively lower LDL cholesterol, increase the dosage to 2,000mg/day for one month.
- Natural plant sterols and stanols
Special plant molecules (phytosterols and phytostanols) are structurally similar to cholesterol and can act in the intestine to lower cholesterol absorption by displacing cholesterol. A meta-analysis of 41 trials showed that an intake of 2g of stanols or sterols per day reduced LDL by 10%.
The most effective way to get these nutrients is by eating foods that are high in the plant molecules: vegetables, wheatgrass juice, fruits, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds.
- Pantethine, B5
Pantethine (or vitamin B5) taken at 900mg per day has been shown to significantly reduce levels of total cholesterol (19%), and LDL cholesterol (21%) while increasing the good HDL cholesterol (23%). The lipid-lowering effects of pantethine are especially impressive because it has virtually no side effects compared with conventional lipid-lowering prescription drugs. Wheatgrass juice is rich in vitamin B5.
Garlic appears to be an important protective factor against heart disease and stroke for many reasons. In numerous double-blind, placebo-controlled studies of patients with initial cholesterol levels greater than 200mg/dl, daily supplementation with garlic tablets containing at least 10mg allicin has been shown to lower total serum cholesterol by about 10-12 %.
At Britt's Superfoods we specialise in providing health reassurance through natural superfoods juice products, so if you are looking for a more natural way to lower your cholesterol levels, our delicious superfoods can help.