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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.
Policosanol. There was a lot of hype that this mix of sugar cane and beeswax is a cholesterol-buster. But the positive studies were tied closely to a company that makes the product. Independent studies found no benefit.
Vitamin D. Touted as a health powerhouse, it may not do much for your heart. Two studies found that raising vitamin D levels didn’t improve cholesterol or triglyceride levels.
Check with your doctor before you take any supplement or non-prescription treatment. Keep a medicine diary so that you can show your doctor and pharmacist what you’re taking. Or just bring all the meds and supplements you take with you to your next appointment.
Supplements are just one part of your total care plan. They’re called “supplements” for a reason. If you take them, it should only be as part of a larger effort to lower cholesterol and triglycerides. A healthy diet, regular exercise, and meds, if prescribed by your doctor, should be the other parts of your plan.