Lowering Cholesterol Naturally
Found naturally in the body, cholesterol is produced mainly in the liver, and is required for digestion, membrane integrity, production of vitamin D, healthy nerves, and as a steroid and sex hormone precursor. Estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and stress hormones require cholesterol for production. Cholesterol is an integral component of the cell structure and membrane. Research has shown that cholesterol protects against infections and atherosclerosis.
Approximately 20% of the myelin sheath that coats our nerve cells and fibres is made of cholesterol, and neuron function depends on cholesterol. Cholesterol is crucial to cognition and mental function, and some research suggests that doctors should be careful when prescribing cholesterol lowering statin drugs to frail elderly people, as they can become more frail and prone to infections.
The body makes cholesterol as needed, adjusting production based on the level of cholesterol in the diet. The more cholesterol you eat the less cholesterol the liver produces. It is estimated that 85% of cholesterol is made by the body and only 15% comes from the diet.
Cholesterol and blood do not mix well, so for cholesterol to travel through your blood it is coated with a layer of protein to make lipoprotein. The two lipoproteins that relate to cholesterol are called High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL cholesterol) and Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL cholesterol).
The thin lining of blood vessels, called the endothelium, can be damaged by exposure to toxins, pathogens, free radicals, or inflammatory substances. The liver sends LDL cholesterol to repair the damaged endothelium. HDL then carries LDL back to the liver to be excreted after the healing process is complete.
The brain contains a high percentage of cholesterol, and uses up to 40% of the cholesterol in the body.
LDL (LOW DENSITY LIPOPROTEIN)
LDL is considered the "bad" cholesterol that picks up cholesterol and deposits it in the arteries and tissues. Think of LDL as "Less Desirable Lipoprotein." It is recommended that LDL levels are less than 130 mg/dl (milligrams per deciliter). You want to keep LDL levels low. The higher the level of LDL, the greater the risk of heart disease.
HDL (HIGH DENSITY LIPOPROTEIN)
HDL is the "good" cholesterol, as it picks up cholesterol and transports it to the liver for elimination. You can think of HDL as “Highly Desirable Lipoprotein.” You want to keep your HDL levels high.
YOU WANT YOUR HDL TO BE “HIGH” AND YOUR LDL TO BE “LOW”.
Research indicates that HDL acts as an antioxidant, as it reduces inflammation and blood clotting and helps blood vessels to dilate and stay flexible. Low HDL levels result from the "metabolic syndrome," also called Syndrome X, which greatly increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and Type 2 Diabetes.
Low HDL is now considered just as important an indicator of cardiovascular risk as high LDL. Research estimates that for every 1 mg/dl increase in HDL, the risk of cardiovascular disease drops by 2-3%. Women tend to have higher HDL than men, since estrogen raises HDL.
Research indicates that the oxidation of LDL cholesterol and elevated lipoprotein a [Lp (a)], are independent risk factors for cardiovascular disease, contributing to atherosclerosis; Oxidized LDL injures endothelial cells and causes inflammation, and elevated Lp(a) can form a plaque that leads to vascular occlusion.
A number of studies confirm that CoQ10, vitamin C (especially when combined with proline and lysine), pomegranate, amla (Indian Gooseberry) and curcumin (the yellow pigment from the turmeric rhizome) can protect against LDL oxidation, raise HDL and reduce LDL.
NATURAL SOLUTIONS TO LOWER CHOLESTEROL
Some herbs, antioxidants, vitamins and nutraceuticals can reduce cholesterol by neutralizing circulatory and inflammatory agents so the liver produces less cholesterol. Cholesterol lowering natural products also support biochemical processes that accelerate healing.
EAT BREAKFAST (THE MOST IMPORTANT MEAL OF THE DAY) AND EAT REGULAR MEALS
Foods that lower cholesterol include soy products, oat bran and whole oats, whole rye, barley, garlic, onion, grapefruit and apples (source of pectin), carrots, nuts (especially walnuts and almonds), sesame, flax, pumpkin and sunflower seeds. Yogurt (unsweetened), brewer's yeast, alfalfa sprouts and PanaChia seeds are also recommended. Black tea, 3 cups per day (no milk or cream), for three weeks can lower LDL by 11%, and ½ teaspoon of cinnamon added daily to coffee, cereal or toast (whole grain) can lower LDL up to 20%.
INCREASE FIBER IN THE DIET
Dietary fiber binds to bile acids in the gut and carries them out of the body, requiring the body to convert more cholesterol into bile acids. This results in lower cholesterol and other blood fats. Studies have shown that supplementation with soluble fiber significantly reduces total blood cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides, and in some cases raises HDL cholesterol. Fiber can also lower total and LDL cholesterol in people with metabolic syndrome.
Dietary fiber supplements such as pectin, psyllium, PanaChia, Fiberrific, Barley-Beta-Glucan with Viscofiber, EZ-Fiber (Complementary Prescriptions), Super Seed (Garden of Life), and ground flax seeds may lower total and LDL cholesterol levels. A whole grain high fiber breakfast made with oats, PanaChia, and ground flax can help lower cholesterol levels while stabilizing blood sugar.
AVOID REFINED SUGAR, HIGH GLYCEMIC SWEETENERS (HONEY, FRUCTOSE, MAPLE SYRUP, AGAVE SYRUP), REFINED CARBOHYDRATES (WHITE FLOUR, RICE, ETC.), AND TRANS-FATS
Hyperinsulinemia (also called insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, or Syndrome X) induces hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol levels) by increasing production of HMG CoA reductase, the enzyme that is responsible for cholesterol production. It is vital that anyone with high cholesterol understand the importance of reducing or eliminating insulin resistance and accompanying hyperinsulininemia. Dietary solutions include high protein, whole grains (complex carbohydrates), high levels of soluble fiber, and total elimination of sugar, refined carbohydrates, trans-fatty acids and food chemicals. Aerobic and resistance exercise, and increased activity levels are as important as dietary changes.
EGGS ARE OK: Eggs, one per day, do not increase cholesterol levels in the majority of people.
PROBIOTIC SUPPLEMENTS, BENEFICIAL BACTERIA: Consumption of probiotic supplements (beneficial bacteria) has been shown to lower cholesterol levels. Ask Aviva for recommendations.
RICE BRAN OIL: Rice bran oil has been shown to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
POMEGRANATE JUICE AND SUPPLEMENTS: Pomegranate provides a variety of health benefits that extend beyond lowering oxidized LDL cholesterol, as studies have shown that it is effective in lowering high blood pressure, helping shrink an enlarged prostate, strengthening the immune system, and may help fight cancer.
TURMERIC SPICE: The most powerful healing herb, turmeric is known for its antioxidant, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and cognitive benefits. Research indicates that turmeric (the spice that gives curry its yellow color) lowers LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, while preventing LDL oxidation. Use liberally in cooking.
NIACIN (VITAMIN B3): Niacin (nicotinic acid) is the gold standard for lowering cholesterol. There are two other forms of vitamin B3, including niacinamide, which has not been shown to lower cholesterol (although recent research may prove that niacinamide may be the magic bullet to cure Alzheimer's Disease), and inositol hexaniacinate, also called “flush free” niacin.
For those who cannot tolerate the “niacin flush,” inositol hexaniacinate is recommended. This is a form of niacin that is bound to inositol. The cholesterol lowering effects of inositol hexaniacinate are not as well documented, but in high doses it is effective. Many of the successful natural cholesterol lowering formulas add additional nutrients that work in synergy with inositol hexaniacinate.
BETA-SITOSTEROL, AND PLANT STEROLS: Next to niacin, beta-sitosterol may be the most effective natural product for lowering LDL and raising HDL cholesterol. Beta-sitosterol prevents dietary cholesterol from being absorbed in the small intestine by increasing the flow of bile acids, which binds cholesterol in the digestive track facilitating excretion.
RICE BRAN SOLUBLES: One of nature's richest sources of plant sterols and tocotrienols. Rice bran solubles can help lower cholesterol, improve insulin sensitivity, increase energy, and boost and balance the immune system. Add to a hot breakfast, or to a smoothie.
TOCOTRIENOLS: This is a form of Vitamin E that specifically lowers cholesterol, however research is revealing that this form of Vitamin E has a wide range of additional benefits. The latest research indicates that delta tocotrienol from annato is the most effective at reducing LDL and raising HDL cholesterol.
PANTETHINE: 300 mg, 3X per day. This is a coenzyme form of B5, or pantothenic acid.
GUGGULIPID: 500 milligrams, 3X per day. Guggul may also stimulate the thyroid gland.
CHROMIUM : 200-1000 mcg/day. Best when combined with niacin, 100 mg/day.
Dr. Jonathan Wright, M.D., recommends 1,000 - 2,000 mcg chromium, 300-400 mg magnesium, and the tocotrienol form of Vitamin E (50-100 mg) to increase HDL cholesterol.
CALCIUM: 800 - 1800 mg per day. Choose a chelated form of calcium, or one of the highly absorbable powdered forms, including Easy Calcium by PureLi Natural.
VITAMIN C: 1,000 - 5,000 mg per day. Vitamin C helps remove cholesterol by converting it into bile acids that are excreted by the bowel. Studies have shown taking 1000 mg of vitamin C and 800 mg Vitamin E before a fat containing meal prevents some fats from being absorbed into the blood. Many people prefer the less acidic (more alkaline) buffered Vitamin C produced by reacting ascorbic acid with minerals including calcium and magnesium. Calcium ascorbate is the principal form of vitamin C used in Ester-C, Mild-C, etc. Mineral ascorbates also contain highly absorbable forms of minerals.
AOR TLC: The best vitamin C formula for lowering cholesterol, helping to remove oxidized LDL cholesterol and Lp(a) (Lipoprotein a) and improve cardiovascular health is TLC by AOR. This formula helps to alter the binding properties of Lp(a) a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Proline and lysine are also necessary components for the production of collagen, along with Vitamin C.
RED YEAST RICE: Statin drugs are derived from red yeast rice. RYR is not allowed in Canada.
MAGNESIUM: 300 - 500 mg / day (may raise HDL levels). Magnesium also blocks the HMG-CoA reductase enzyme (like statins) but unlike statin drugs, magnesium does not deplete CoQ10. Magnesium is required for over 300 enzymatic and biochemical reactions in the body.
LECITHIN: (19 grains), 2 capsules, 3 times per day may raise HDL levels.
POMEGRANATE: Juice, concentrated extracts, or supplements.
THEAFLAVINS: Derived from black tea, black tea flavonoids are strong antioxidants shown to help regulate and lower inflammation, lower LDL, raise HDL, and help protect against LDL oxidation.
GLUCOMANNAN/KONJAC ROOT: While glucomannan is often prescribed as a weight loss aid, as it helps curb hunger by increasing satiety, studies have proven that it is effective at lowering cholesterol.
CURCUMIN (CONCENTRATED SUPPLEMENT): The most powerful herbal supplement, research indicates that curcumin, the extract derived from turmeric, can lower LDL, raise HDL, and prevent LDL oxidation.
RECOMMENDED CHOLESTEROL SUPPLEMENTS: (IN ORDER OF EFFECTIVENESS)
* Douglas Laboratories Cardio-Edge [now called Choles-Sterol], with Sytrinol, a clinically proven extract of citrus and palm fruits.
* Vita Heart Cholesterol Health
* Carlson Labs Right for Cholesterol
* NOW Cholestatin
* Omega Alpha Less Sterol
* AOR CureCumin - The most powerful Curcumin supplement available, with the widest range of health benefits. Curcumin is the concentrated active ingredient derived from the turmeric spice.
RECOMMENDED FIBRE PRODUCTS (ASK AVIVA FOR OTHER RECOMMENDATIONS)
CHOLESTEROL LOWERING DRUGS: STATINS
Statin drugs reduce cholesterol by inhibiting HMG-CoA reductase, a liver enzyme directly responsible for about 80 percent of the cholesterol production in the body. The same enzyme is also a crucial part of the body's process for producing coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), and that's why CoQ10 levels are negatively affected by statins. Those taking statin drugs should seriously consider taking CoQ10, 300 mg per day, as low levels of CoQ10 may contribute to congestive heart failure, muscle weakness and low energy levels. The most popular statin drugs include Lipitor (atorvastatin), Lescol (fluvastatin), Mevacor (lovastatin), Pravachol (pravastatin), Zocor (simvastatin), and Crestor (rosuvastatin).
Health Disclaimer. Copyright ©2009. Nathan Zassman is a trained nutrition practitioner and the owner of Aviva Natural Health Solutions.
Looking for more information? See Reducing Cholesterol Naturally by Dr. Gordon Chang.