Healthy alternatives for lowering cholesterol

Red yeast rice may be an alternative for treating high cholesterol in those who cannot tolerate statin drugs, and artichoke leaf extract and vitamin C lowered cholesterol levels, three new studies reveal.

Researchers in a red yeast rice study wanted to find an alternative treatment for people with high cholesterol who repeatedly had to stop taking statin drugs due to muscle pain. Over 60 participants with high cholesterol took 1,800 mg of red yeast rice twice per day or a placebo for six months. After 24 weeks, the red yeast rice group had reduced LDL—the “bad” cholesterol—by more than twice as much as the placebo group. Thirty percent of the red yeast rice group achieved the ideal LDL cholesterol level of 100 mg/dL or lower compared to 7 percent for placebo.

In a cholesterol study, 75 participants who were healthy except for mildly to moderately high cholesterol levels (262 to 309 mg/dL) took 1,280 mg of artichoke leaf extract (ALE) per day or a placebo. After 12 weeks, total cholesterol had decreased an average of 4 percent in the ALE group, while increasing 2 percent for placebo. Doctors concluded that those who don’t yet need cholesterol drugs could use ALE to help lower cholesterol.

In a review of 13 vitamin C clinical trials published over 28 years, researchers found that those with high cholesterol who took at least 500 mg of vitamin C per day for four to 24 weeks saw an average 5 percent drop in LDL cholesterol and 2 percent increase in HDL, the “good” cholesterol. Triglycerides also dropped in the vitamin C groups. Doctors noted that even modest changes can lower chances of heart disease and that vitamin C in doses of 500 mg to 1,000 mg is safe and affordable.

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