When you’re trying to lower cholesterol or triglycerides, you may end up in a vitamin shop, facing dozens of supplements. Which ones are worth a try?
Fish oil. These supplements help lower triglyceride levels by as much as 30%, thanks to omega-3s they have in them like EPA and DHA.
You’ll need a high dose - 2-4 grams of fish oils EPA and DHA per day. It may be tough to get that amount from supplements. If your triglycerides are very high, your doctor may recommend a prescription fish oil.
Some people are concerned about high levels of mercury or other pollutants when picking out fish oil supplements. The actual amount of fish oil and how well it’s absorbed in your body is also important. Ask your doctor about safe and effective ones to try.
Psyllium. Fiber is a great cholesterol-buster and part of a healthy diet. Fiber also helps lower triglycerides and total cholesterol, especially for people with type 2 diabetes. If you don’t, or can't, get enough fiber from foods -- like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains -- psyllium can fill in the gaps. It’ll whisk away cholesterol, but like other fiber, it can make you need to go to bathroom more often or cause constipation if you don’t also increase your water intake.
Soy protein supplements. Soy can lower total and LDL cholesterol levels a little. Eating soy protein instead of animal protein (like meat and full-fat dairy) will also help.
Coenzyme Q10. This powerful antioxidant can lower bad LDL cholesterol's ability to stick to the blood vessels of mice. However, scientists say that more research is needed to confirm whether it can work in humans.
So, what about it does work? If you’re taking a statin to lower your cholesterol and having muscle pain as a side effect, there is some proof that coenzyme Q10 can help ease it.
Garlic. Garlic supplements slightly lowered total and LDL cholesterol levels in a few small studies. But overall, the evidence doesn’t seem to support garlic as an effective way to lower cholesterol.
Niacin. This B vitamin can boost HDL “good" cholesterol and lower LDL “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides -- but only use it if your doctor advises you to. For niacin to work you have to take a lot of it, and that can cause side effects such as facial flushing. At that point it is more like taking a drug than a non-prescription supplement.
Red yeast rice. This supplement has the same active ingredient found in cholesterol-lowering statin drugs. However, the FDA has classified it as a drug and has banned its sale as a supplement in the U.S., saying it needs more regulation because of side effects. If you find it in a store for sale without a prescription, it may not be the real thing. If you’re ordering online, beware! It can have the same side effects as medications and have negative interactions with other drugs.