Cholesterol Control: The Alternatives
Medications alone aren't the only means to lower cholesterol levels. Some over-the-counter alternative high cholesterol treatments can help -- but others don't fulfill their promise.
"Throw in the fact that fiber has all kinds of other
benefits for your entire digestive system, and fiber becomes one of the best
dietary means of lowering cholesterol," says Lee.
Soy has been the object of attention as an alternative
treatment for a number of ailments, from lowering cholesterol to reducing
menopause symptoms. But Lichtenstein says there is little to support such
"Soy is a great source of low-fat protein," she says.
"Replace your hamburger with a soy burger. Use it all through your diet to
replace high-fat foods. But the evidence does not support its use in lowering
Red yeast rice contains a natural form of the statin
drug Mevacor. Some initial research has shown red yeast rice to be effective in
lowering cholesterol, but according to Lee, the FDA has some issues with it
because herbal doses can vary widely, which is not something you want in
Garlic is another food that, despite claims to the
opposite, has been shown not to lower cholesterol. A 1998 study in The
Journal of the American Medical Association shows that "consuming
garlic does not lower cholesterol," and such products cannot be recommended
as a way to lower cholesterol.
"Foods like garlic may have many beneficial
properties," says Lee. "And it may be useful to include those as part
of your diet, but that is different from saying that it can lower
Coenzyme Q10 is the subject of much debate. It's
credited with everything from lowering cholesterol to slowing the aging
process. But again, there is not much evidence to support it.
"The data is still very inconclusive on it," says
Lichtenstein. "None of the reputable health organizations have recommended
it. It's too early to say whether it will be useful."
Chromium, lecithin and quercetin and numerous other
supplements are purported to reduce cholesterol, but their use is controversial
and should be used only under the guidance of your doctor.
"What research shows is that 70% of patients are reluctant
to share information about alternative therapies they may be taking with their
doctor," says Lichtenstein. "That's a real mistake in general, but
especially when it comes to reducing high cholesterol. You need to let your
doctor in on everything you're taking before you take it."