Targeted Nutritional Support for Healthy Cholesterol Levels

by Dr. David Williams
Filed Under: Cholesterol, Heart Health
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

Learn which nutrients can help lower LDL and raise HDL

Because cholesterol tends to be high when there are other problems in the body (particularly in the arteries), bringing down your numbers means taking actions that benefit the entire cardiovascular system—not just going after cholesterol itself.

Targeted nutritional support is an effective tool for that when used with a healthy diet and regular exercise. To start, I recommend that you become familiar with the nutrients that support overall heart health. Then focus on specific nutrients that are helpful for achieving healthy cholesterol levels. They include:

Niacin

Research has shown you can use niacin (vitamin B3) to both reduce total cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol.

In a study of patients with coronary artery disease, some of whom had previously had heart attacks, each was started on 100 mg of niacin daily. Over 12 weeks, this dosage was gradually increased until as many patients as possible were taking 1–2 grams (1,000–2,000 mg) a day. At the end of 10 months, patients taking more than 1,000 mg of niacin a day had reduced their total cholesterol by 16 percent and increased their HDL cholesterol by 41 percent. Patients who were taking dosages of less than 1,000 mg a day also saw improvements; their total cholesterol fell 5 percent, and HDL cholesterol went up 25 percent.

It’s worth noting that the dosages had to be increased slowly because of niacin’s flushing effect—a reddening of the face, shoulders, and arms—along with itchiness—that usually lasts about five to ten minutes after taking niacin. (This occurs because niacin is a superficial vasodilator, meaning it opens blood vessels near the skin.)

If you take niacin to improve your cholesterol, remember that you should always take a complete B-complex vitamin daily if you’re going to take any B vitamin by itself. A high-quality multivitamin with about 50 mg of each B should be sufficient.

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Coenzyme Q10

CoQ10 is the ultimate heart protector. It facilitates the production of cellular energy (particularly important for the heart) and it offers powerful antioxidant protection. Extensive research supports the use of CoQ10 to promote not just healthy cholesterol levels, but also healthy blood pressure and valve function. I recommend 60–200 mg a day for overall cardiovascular health.

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Vitamin C

Low levels of vitamin C have been shown to have the following effects on the cardiovascular system:

  • Increase cholesterol, triglyceride, and LDL levels, decrease HDL levels
  • Suppress the conversion of excess blood cholesterol into bile
  • Restrict the production of collagen and glycosaminoglycans, two connective tissue components that give structural strength to arterial walls

Numerous studies have shown that adding supplemental vitamin C can lower total cholesterol, blood fats, triglyceride levels, and platelet adhesiveness, while at the same time increasing HDL cholesterol. I recommend 2–2.5 grams a day. (Note: Daily doses of 2 grams or more may lower copper levels. Be sure you get at least 2 mg of dietary copper daily when taking higher dosages.)

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Lecithin

The word lecithin is derived from the Greek word lekithos, meaning egg yolk (eggs are a rich source of lecithin), and lecithin has a unique relationship with cholesterol.

Normal body temperature is 37° C (this is also 98.6° F). Cholesterol melts at 149° C, which basically means that a hunk of cholesterol stuck in your artery somewhere isn’t going to be easy to remove unless it is liquefied. That’s where lecithin comes in. Research has found that cholesterol becomes soluble in the bloodstream only when enough lecithin is present. Once it’s soluble, it can be sent to the liver for excretion.

I like the granular form of lecithin. It is derived from soy and is a simple, tasty way to get sufficient amounts of this essential nutrient. Mix the granules with juice or another beverage or sprinkle it on cereal (check out my recipe for a Lecithin Power Shake.) You can purchase lecithin in health food stores or online.

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Selenium

Selenium acts as a potent antioxidant and has been shown to directly prevent atherosclerosis. It works best when combined with vitamin E. The RDA for selenium is 70mcg, but research indicates this far too low for optimal health. In my experience a safe, effective daily dose for selenium is 200 mcg. Toxicity is rare, and the warning signs are obvious: a garlic smell of the breath, sweat, or urine; eruptions and yellow tinting of the skin; intestinal problems; kidney or liver impairment; or arthritis.

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Citrus Pectin

This fiber, which has traditionally been used as a remedy for constipation, can help lower serum cholesterol levels. In fact, it has been shown that pectin—specifically grapefruit pectin—is just as effective as the anti-cholesterol drug cholestyramine.

Animal studies have confirmed the safety of pectin and shown that it doesn’t inhibit the absorption of necessary minerals such as iron. In a subsequent human study involving patients ages 27 to 69, total cholesterol levels dropped an average of 21 mg/dL after taking pectin. Levels of LDL averaged 195 mg/dL at the beginning of the study and dropped to an average of 174 mg/dL after the pectin. HDL and triglyceride levels were unaffected.

There are a lot of citrus pectin products available, but I like ProFibe. It was developed by the same researcher who conducted the human study. Look for it online and at health food stores.

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Red Yeast Rice

Another natural remedy that successfully lowers LDL cholesterol levels while maintaining HDL cholesterol is red yeast rice. This product is made from rice on which red yeast (Monascus purpureus) has been fermented. This fermentation process was discovered in China during the production of wine and other products almost 3,000 years ago. Studies have shown that the red yeast rice product works just as well as the cholesterol-lowering medication, lovastatin (Mevacor), but without the side effects.

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Chromium (Brewer’s Yeast)

This trace mineral has been shown to perform amazing feats when it comes to lowering LDL cholesterol levels.

In the form of brewer’s yeast (about 2½ teaspoons, or 50 mcg, daily), chromium was given to patients each day for eight weeks. At the end of the study, serum cholesterol levels dropped from more than 240 mg/dL to less than 220 mg/dL, while HDL levels rose. As a follow-up, the dosages of brewer’s yeast were cut in half and cholesterol levels still fell in almost 80 percent of patients.

Brewer’s yeast is considered to be one of the best sources of chromium. The chromium it contains is bound to the Glucose Tolerance Factor (GTF), making it easier for the body to use.

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More Dr. Williams Advice on Cholesterol

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