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Jul 25, 2018

Natural Alternatives to Cholesterol-Lowering Statins

Natural remedies can complement but not replace cholesterol-lowering drugs, experts explain.

For patients who can’t tolerate cholesterol-lowering statins, natural remedies like bergamot, garlic and green tea may be a useful alternative, based on a recent statement published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Written by a team of experts, this statement summarized everything we know about natural remedies for lowering cholesterol, sometimes referred to as nutraceuticals. Nutraceuticals are foods or supplements that have special health benefits.

The statement’s key purpose was to provide treatment options for patients who can’t take statins due to side effects. While additional research is needed on the topic, authors hope the paper provides some groundwork for incorporating natural remedies into modern medicine.

Based on the latest evidence, authors explain that certain foods and supplements may aid in cholesterol reduction. Studies have tested a number of different supplements, such as red yeast rice, omega-3 fatty acids, spirulina, soy proteins, green tea, lupin, garlic fibers, bergamot and berberine. There’s not enough evidence to say how well they work and for which patients they’ll work best.

However, studies show that these remedies are generally safe, with virtually no adverse effects, and have some cholesterol-lowering benefits. Based on this evidence, authors believe it’s reasonable to consider such alternatives in certain situations.

For example, natural remedies may be useful for high-risk patients taking statins who still don’t have their cholesterol under control. Experts believe the addition of supplements could complement existing treatments. There are also few downsides, as it’s unlikely that supplements or dietary changes would have interactions with current medications.

Authors also explain that natural remedies may be recommended for patients who can’t tolerate statins. Muscle pain is one of the most common side effects associated with statins. Many patients who can’t take statins will take non-statin drugs like ezetimibe and PCSK9 inhibitors. Since their treatment options are limited, supplements may help further reduce cholesterol levels.

However, authors stress the fact that natural remedies cannot replace statin therapy, which is a tried-and-true way to lower cholesterol and risk for heart events. Patients also shouldn’t replace any other cholesterol-lowering drugs with natural remedies. Rather, supplements and dietary changes may be a useful addition to treatment plans for high cholesterol.

With future research, experts hope to provide more clear recommendations for the use of supplements as a form of cholesterol-lowering treatment.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What are statins?
  • Statins are drugs used to lower cholesterol. They help lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol and raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL or “good”) cholesterol, which can help prevent heart attack and stroke. Statins prevent your body from making new cholesterol and may help reduce the amount of plaque already built up on artery walls.
  • What are the risks associated with high cholesterol?
  • High cholesterol can cause atherosclerosis, the build-up of plaque on artery walls. This accumulation of deposits can cause serious complications, such as chest painheart attack and stroke. High cholesterol is largely preventable and treatable, so getting screened and making healthy lifestyle choices can go a long way in controlling cholesterol levels.

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