Over many years practising as a Naturopath I have treated many people worried about raised Cholesterol levels.
Cholesterol is an essential structural and metabolic component of all body cells and forms the basis of most human hormones. It is a fatty waxy sbstance that is synthesised in the liver and is also a constituent of bile.
Hypercholesterolaemia, defined as a serum cholesterol value above 5.5.mmol/L,
is widely recognised as a major risk factor in the development of cardiovascular
The risk is intensified where the relative level of low density lipoprotein (LDL), is increased in comparison to high density lipoprotein (HDL).
To explain the reason for this: LDL consists mostly of cholesterol and delivers cholesterol to cells where it is needed. LDL is often referred to as ‘bad’ cholersterol as it will deposit excess cholesterol into the artery walls, which can increase the risk of heart disease.
HDL consists mostly of protein and removes cholesterol from tissues in the body and
transports it back to the liver for further metabolism. HDL is often referred to as ‘good’ cholesterol.
Factors that can increase LDL are diet, tendency to or poorly controlled diabetes, hypothyroidism, liver disease, ‘ageing’, some steroid and hypertensive drugs and reduced oestrogen levels.
High cholesterol is NOT a disease in itself. It would be better described as a symptom of something else that has gone wrong. The diet may be too high in sugars and/or refined foods, there may be too much stress in ones life or lack of adequate exercise. In some cases the liver may not be metabolising adequately.
To explain your cholesterol blood test:
Total cholesterol should be between 1.2 and 6.5mmol/l, (pref <4.0mmol/l)
LDL <4.0mmol/l, (preferably < 2.5mmol/l)
HDL <0.9 – 2.2 mmol/l, (preferably >1.0mmol/l)
TG (triglycerides) <2.3mmol/l, (preferably <2.0mmol/l)
To reduce high blood cholesterol firstly look at the diet, although in some cases the diet will not be at fault and it may be the liver that needs attention. However, to be sure, avoid organ meats, all saturated and hard fats, heated fats and processed oils, sugars and refined foods, refined carbohydrates (white bread/flour etc) and coffee.
Excess coffee (4-6 cups or more daily) and alcohol, as both have been shown to elevate serum cholesterol levels.
Add to the diet more fish (at least 3-4 times weekly), yoghurt and fresh fruit an vegetables. Foods which are known to help lower cholesterol levels are apples, bananas, dried beans, garlic, onions, grapefruit, olive oil and any cold-water/oily fish-salmon, sardines, herrings, cod etc.
The water-soluble dietary fibre found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains is important as they bind cholesterol in the intestines and promote its excretion. They also help increase HDL levels while decreasing LDL levels. Barley, beans, oats, brown rice and most fruits as well as psyllium and slippery elm powder contain water-soluble fibre.
Drink more fresh juices – especially carrot, celery and green juices.
Use more cold pressed oils: these are oils that have not been heated during processing, and are liquid at room temperature. Flaxseed, Primrose, Black currant and Olive oils are recommended.
Do not consume rancid fats, oils, nuts or seeds. All should be kept in the fridge.
Lecithin can be easily obtained and is an inexpensive supplement that can help reduce cholesterol levels. Use 1 tablespoon daily.
Herbs that have been found to reduce serum lipid levels include St Mary’s Thistle, Globe Artichoke, both of which help support liver function.
See page on ‘Liver – the facts’.
Also Hawthorn can be effective in helping keep cholesterol levels balanced.
Vitamin E acts as a lipid-soluble antioxidant and can help to reduce cholesterol levels, use 400 IU daily.
Vitamin C has also been found to reduce LDL cholesterol levels.
Deficiency of Coenzyme Q10 is a common finding in patients with hyperlipidaemia and this is believed to be a factor in oxidative damage to the tissues such as the arterial walls.
Supplementation with 100mg of CoQ10 daily has been shown to prevent the development of deficiencies in patients taking ‘statin’ type drugs, which are known to induce deficiency.
CoQ10 has been shown also to reduce cholesterol levels and to prevent oxidation of LDL
cholesterol. Research has used levels of 100-300mg daily.
See page on ‘Coenzyme Q10’.
More recently plant sterols have been shown to have a great effect on reducing cholesterol levels and reducing LDL levels. Plant sterols have a similar composition to human cholesterol and compete with human cholesterol for uptake into the blood stream.
Those derived from sugar cane appear to be reasonably effective.
Red yeast rice is also proving to be very effective. Red yeast rice is the fermented product of rice on which red yeast (monascus purpureus) has been grown. It has been used in China for hundreds of years, characterised as ‘being useful for blood circulation’. It has been used as a food preservative, food colourant, spice and ingredient in rice wine.
The major active componant in red yeast rice is monacolin K, this is identical to Lovastatin , however evidence shows that fermented red yeast rice lowers cholesterol moderately compared to statin drugs and causes less adverse side effects.
As far as safety goes, scientists conducting studies generally believe that red yeast rice is safe in the long term as it has been a staple food for thousands of years in Asian countries without reports of toxicity.
This is most likely due to the fact that preparation does not involve the isolation
and concentration of a single ingredient.
Because products made with red yeast rice are not purified and concentrated they also contain unsaturated fatty acids and certain anti-oxidants which may work together favourably with lovastatin to enhance its cholesterol lowering effects, as well as its ability
to lower triglycerides and increase HDL cholesterol.
I have heard that red yeast rice may however cause Co-enzyme Q10 levels to decrease slightly so extra supplementation may still be recommended.
See page on ‘Statins’ – alternatives to.
Alternative cholesterol reducing products are available via the On-line shop.
Soy protein is effective in reducing total cholesterol and LDL. Soy will also help balance hormonal levels in post menopausal women and this could possibly be a help in reducing
Niacin or Vitamin B3 is also an old and effective remedy, but requires careful usage. Always start by using a very small dose and slowly increasing in
proportion to the amount of ‘flush’ obtained. The ‘flush’ should be mild and
last 10-15 minutes. Dose can slowly be increased over a number of months to 600-
800mg, then take a break and start again after 4-6 weeks. Alternatively once the
correct cholesterol level is reached maintain the dose at a lower level.
See page on Niacin – the use of B3