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Lowering Cholesterol The Natural Way

By Staff | Jun 11, 2009

Cholesterol continues to be a hot topic in relation to heart health although I am not convinced that total cholesterol is the total answer to heart health. We seem to have lost the biology lesson that details the many functions that cholesterol plays in the human body, as in the production of steroid hormones, strengthening cell membranes and so on.

But no matter, we still have the issue before us, and increasing numbers of people are being prescribed cholesterol-lowering medications in an attempt to reduce cardiovascular mortality.

A study conducted at Chestnut Hill Hospital and the University of Pennsylvania (published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, July 2008) found that supplementation with fish oil and red yeast rice, in conjunction with dietary change and regular exercise lowered blood cholesterol levels as effectively as treatment with a statin drug.

That is wonderful news. The dietary changes involve lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, and balancing protein, carbohydrates, and fats appropriately. This is not difficult to do, as it is the same program I teach in my FirstLine Therapy consultations.

The study subjects included 74 individuals with high blood cholesterol who did not have coronary artery disease. The study lasted for 12 weeks. The conventional treatment group received a statin drug, along with handouts on diet and exercise.

The supplementation group received fish oil and red yeast rice. The amount of these products they received differed depending on results of their blood work. The supplement group also attended weekly meetings on lifestyle where they were taught the Mediterranean diet and to exercise 30 to 45 minutes five to six times per week.

After 12 weeks, LDL levels had declined 42% in the supplement group and 39% in the conventional treatment group (not a statistically significant difference. The treatment group also lost an average of 10 pounds; there was no significant weight loss in the conventional treatment group. Triglyceride levels decreased by 29% in the supplement group compared to 9.3% in the conventional group, a significant difference.

So the two treatment models were comparable in results, except that triglyceride levels were better in the supplement group.

Red yeast rice, a dietary staple in some Asian countries, contains several compounds collectively known as monacolins, substances that inhibit cholesterol synthesis.

If I were diagnosed with high cholesterol and my doctor recommended statin drug therapy, I would ask if I could try the supplement approach for 3 months. If it is working fine, great! If not, I could always resort to the conventional treatment model.

Carol is a certified lifestyle educator at the offices of Dr. Alan Gruning in Ft. Myers, FL (239-939-3303) She owns the Island Nutrition Center on Sanibel, FL. (239-472-4499)