We all need cholesterol for our bodies to function properly. But some of us produce too much cholesterol, which can increase the risk of heart disease. Though dietary changes are certainly one approach to help lower cholesterol levels, more intervention may be necessary. According to scientific research, four natural substances stand out as safe and effective choices to keep high cholesterol in check.
GARLIC: Used since ancient times for its health-giving benefits, garlic remains one of the most celebrated natural remedies. Among its many properties is an ability to lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol while boosting HDL (“good”) cholesterol. In one study, garlic supplements reduced cholesterol levels by an average of 12%. In another, LDL cholesterol levels dropped by 11%. Researchers also point to garlic’s antioxidant power. By protecting LDL cholesterol from damage by free radical molecules, garlic also helps prevent plaque buildup in the arteries and lowers the risk for heart attack and stroke.
LECITHIN: This substance is produced by the liver to help break down fat — including cholesterol — and remove it from the body. It is also available as a food supplement, usually derived from soy. Lecithin has been used for many years to help lower high cholesterol. In fact, German health authorities have approved it to treat less severe cases where diet and other medical interventions have been unsuccessful.
BLACK SEED (BLACK CUMIN): Like garlic, black seed is an ancient remedy that was treasured for its many health benefits. One of these, now proven through research studies, is its ability to “significantly” lower LDL cholesterol while boosting HDL, or good cholesterol. As with garlic, black seed is also a potent antioxidant that protects cholesterol from being damaged and forming dangerous plaque.
PSYLLIUM: This rich source of soluble fibre has been shown in numerous studies to reduce the absorption of blood cholesterol and bile acids, which helps lower total and LDL cholesterol. Soluble fibre from psyllium husks bulks up in the intestines, improving stool transit and increasing cholesterol elimination. Dietary fibre also may inhibit production of cholesterol in the liver. In a recent US study, men with both diabetes and high cholesterol showed an average of 11% lower blood glucose and cholesterol levels than a placebo group after only eight weeks taking psyllium.
Sources: Am J Clin Nutr 2000 Jun;71(6):1433-8; Practical Guide to Natural Medicines by A Pierce, Stonesong:1999; Arzneimittelforschung 2000;50(9):832-6; The Super Antioxidants by J Balch, MD, Evans:1998; J Ethnopharmacol 2002;79(1):23-6