Omega-3s, soy and red yeast rice help lower cholesterol and protect the heart

Omega-3s protect the heart, soy and prebiotics lowered LDL cholesterol, and red yeast rice cut LDL in several new studies.

Doctors in an omega-3 study gave 12 healthy men, aged 53 to 65, increasing doses of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) over eight weeks. In two-week cycles, the men took 200 mg of DHA per day, 400 mg, 800 mg, and 1,600 mg per day. With the three lower doses, blood levels of vitamin E increased and signs of oxidative cell damage decreased. Doctors concluded that DHA in doses of 200 mg to 800 mg per day may have antioxidant effects and help prevent cardiovascular disease in healthy people.

In a cholesterol study, 23 men and women, average age 58, with borderline high LDL cholesterol, ate soy or prebiotics separately or combined as part of a low-fat dairy or soy-based diet. After four weeks, while none of the other groups changed significantly, those who ate soy with prebiotics in the soy-based diet had about 5 percent lower LDL cholesterol.

In another cholesterol study, doctors noted that some people with high cholesterol stop taking statin medication due to muscle pain, and wanted to test red yeast rice as an alternative. Forty-three adults with high cholesterol who had stopped taking statin drugs (other than pravastatin) took red yeast rice or 40 mg of pravastatin per day. Participants also enrolled in a lifestyle-change program focusing on nutrition, regular exercise and relaxation techniques. After 12 weeks, a small percentage in each group had dropped out due to muscle pain. LDL cholesterol also decreased in both groups; 27 percent less for the pravastatin group and 30 percent less for those who took red yeast rice.

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