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5 Science-Backed Natural Ways to Beat High Cholesterol



Contents

1. Natural Remedies for Preventing and Beating High Cholesterol
     a) Oats and Oat Bran
     b) Green Tea
     c) Garlic
     d) Stanols and Sterols
     e) Cannabidiol (CBD)
2. Why You Should Consider Natural Ways to Lower Cholesterol
3. Risks Related to High Cholesterol
4. Facts Regarding High Cholesterol in the U.S.

Natural Remedies That Can Lower Cholesterol

The trend to self-medicate for lifestyle diseases is a growing one. Following are some of the best natural remedies to prevent and/or combat high cholesterol, supported by science.

a) Oats and Oat Bran

Oats and oat bran are some of the oldest, best-known ways to lower cholesterol.

Oats and oat bran are some of the oldest, best-known ways to lower cholesterol. Their effects are also supported by science.

A systematic review of the literature described long-term intervention studies that investigated the effects of oats or oat bran on cardiovascular disease risk factors. [1]

Most of these studies comprised hypercholesterolemic subjects, meaning the majority had high amounts of cholesterol in the blood.

Fifty-eight percent of the studies investigated showed a significant reduction in total blood cholesterol upon oat consumption. Forty-nine percent demonstrated a significant reduction of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. (LDL is the so-called "bad" cholesterol.) Only three studies mentioned reduced blood pressure, and none of the few that looked at markers for insulin sensitivity and inflammation found any effect after long-term oat consumption.

The conclusion: 

Long-term dietary intake of oats or oat bran has a beneficial effect on blood cholesterol. 

The authors caution:

However, there is no evidence that it favourably modulates insulin sensitivity. It is still unclear whether increased oat consumption significantly affects other risk markers for CVD risk, and comprehensive, adequately powered and controlled intervention trials are required to address this question.

Oats are a common, tasty way to keep blood lipids normal, and they’re easily accessible. They can cause flatulence and bloating in some people, but overall, they’re safe to consume in the amounts usually eaten.

2. Green Tea

Research shows that green tea has moderate to significant cholesterol-lowering effects.

Research shows that green tea has moderate to significant cholesterol-lowering effects, but the data is limited.

The most recent meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials to evaluate the effects of green tea on lipid metabolism was conducted in overweight or obese population. [2]

Twenty-one articles studying 1704 overweight or obese subjects were selected for this meta-analysis. The pooled results demonstrated that green tea significantly decreased plasma total cholesterol (TC) and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) levels in overweight or obese people. ... Green tea intake, however, showed no effect on plasma triglyceride (TG) and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol(HDL) levels in overweight or obese people with relatively high heterogeneity.

An older systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials of green tea's effect on blood pressure and lipid profile targeted a more general study population. Here, the results were still positive and significant, but green tea's effects on LDL were not as good: [3]

Green tea intake results in significant reductions in systolic blood pressure, total cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol. The effect size on systolic blood pressure is small, but the effects on total and LDL cholesterol appear moderate. Longer-term independent clinical trials evaluating the effects of green tea are warranted.

Green tea is not tasty, but it has numerous recorded health benefits besides this one. In a small percentage of people, research suggests, it caused liver issues, although the evidence wasn't conclusive. So, avoid if you are hepatically impaired—or drink the tea with great care. 

Green tea can interact with some cardiovascular drugs. An article looking at the available scientific data on this topic reported that "interactions are mild to moderate, with high inter-individual variability. The clinical relevance of green tea-CV drug interactions is not yet established." [4]

RELATED: CBD and Blood Thinners: What You Should Know

3. Garlic

A review of the literature looked at the effect of garlic on blood pressure, cholesterol, and immunity.

Fiction's favorite vampire repellent is another old remedy for keeping blood lipids down. Scientific data shows it has some effects.

An updated meta-analysis and review of the literature looked at the effect of garlic on blood pressure, cholesterol, and immunity. The authors reported that: [5]

Our review suggests that garlic supplements have the potential to lower blood pressure in hypertensive individuals, to regulate slightly elevated cholesterol concentrations, and to stimulate the immune system. Garlic supplements are highly tolerated and may be considered as a complementary treatment option for hypertension, slightly elevated cholesterol, and stimulation of immunity. Future long-term trials are needed to elucidate the effect of garlic on cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.

Thirty-nine randomly controlled trials and 2,300 adults were treated for a minimum of two weeks with garlic supplements. 

Garlic supplements may be considered as a complementary treatment option for hypertension, slightly elevated cholesterol, and stimulation of immunity.

The results suggested garlic to be effective in reducing total and LDL cholesterol by 10% if taken for >2 mo by individuals with slightly elevated concentration.

Another older systematic review and meta-analysis looked at the impact of garlic in lipid parameters such as total cholesterol (TC), triglyceride levels (TAG levels), and LDL and HDL. Their conclusion: [6]

Garlic reduces TC to a modest extent, an effect driven mostly by the modest reductions in TAG, without appreciable LDL lowering or HDL elevation.

4. Stanols and Sterols

The cholesterol-lowering properties of stanols and sterols are well-documented.

Stanols and sterols occur naturally, but in small amounts in many vegetables, grains, nuts, fruits, legumes, and seeds. They are compounds to be found in plant cell membranes and are also referred to as plant sterol and stanol esters. 

Their cholesterol-lowering properties are well-documented, and there are plenty of stanol and sterol supplements on the market. They are also an FDA-approved food additive.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) notes this about the research: [7]

A 2013 systematic review and meta-analysis of eight studies found that supplementation of plant sterols/stanols (in tablets and capsules) was associated with clinically significant reductions in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels. Further analysis showed no significant difference between the LDL-cholesterol−lowering action of plant sterols/stanols supplements compared with foods enriched with plant sterols/stanols.

5. Cannabidiol (CBD)

Most data for CBD's ability to combat high cholesterol is speculative and preclinical.

Most data for this cannabis compound's ability to combat high cholesterol is speculative and preclinical.

CBD works by targeting different types of endocannabinoid receptors in the body. Some of these are nuclear receptors, called this because they occur in the nuclei of cells. Nuclear receptors play a role in physiological processes to do with immunity, inflammation, lipid uptake, and energy conversion.

CBD molecules also interact with G-protein receptors, also called orphan receptors. Evidence suggests that these receptors have a role in blood pressure, bone density, and inflammation regulation.

CBD oil also interacts with vanilloid receptors, which are linked to a reduction of inflammation in blood vessels. This could play a role in reduced cardiovascular diseases such as stroke and heart attack. [8]

Why You Should Consider Natural Ways to Lower Cholesterol

Diarrhea...constipation...nausea and vomiting...headache...insomnia...erectile dysfunction...fancy any of these?

Probably not. Yet these are the side effects associated with many statins, the anti-cholesterol drugs doctors routinely prescribe for high cholesterol. These drugs lower the risk of serious conditions related to high cholesterol, such as heart attack and stroke. But they often come with the aforementioned and more side effects.

Why You Should Consider Natural Ways to Lower Cholesterol

RELATED: The 9 Hemp Oil Benefits That Can Change Your Life

For instance, simvastatin, a very commonly prescribed drug in the U.S. can be the cause of the following symptoms—either immediately upon starting or after long-term use: [9]

Common Side Effects

Uncommon Side Effects

Postmarketing Side Effects

CPK elevation*

Joint pain

Erectile dysfunction

Constipation

Arthritis

Interstitial lung disease

Upper respiratory tract infection

Eosinophilia (elevation of a certain type of white blood cell)

Cognitive impairment such as memory loss, forgetfulness, amnesia, memory impairment, confusion

Gas (flatulence)

Chills

Headache

Muscle wasting

Muscle pain, muscle damage or muscle weakness

Eczema

Spinning sensation (vertigo)

Abdominal pain

*CPK stands for creatine phosphokinase, which is an enzyme in the body. It occurs mainly in the heart, brain, and skeletal muscle. The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai further elaborates what happens when the total CPK level is very high: [10]

...it most often means there has been injury or stress to muscle tissue, the heart, or the brain.

Muscle tissue injury is most likely. When a muscle is damaged, CPK leaks into the bloodstream. Finding which specific form of CPK is high helps determine which tissue has been damaged.

If you're not put off yet—other reported side effects of statins include liver damage, dark-colored urine, urinary tract infections, and increased blood sugar or type 2 diabetes, according to WebMD. [11]

Reported side effects of statins include liver damage, dark-colored urine, urinary tract infections, and increased blood sugar.When patients complain about side effects, the more responsible physician will change the dose, switch treatment, look at other medicines' side-effect profiles, make dietary or lifestyle suggestions, or suggest a natural remedy to combat the mentioned symptoms. 

The irresponsible doctor will prescribe yet another medicine to manage the statins—which is why so many older people end up taking up to 10 different prescription medicines each day.

Risks Related to High Cholesterol

In an interview with WebMD, Antonio M. Gotto Jr., MD, a professor of medicine at Weill Medical College of Cornell University and an expert on cholesterol and atherosclerosis, explained the progression and risk of cholesterol. [12]

Scientists aren't sure how high cholesterol injures arteries, Gotto says, but he explains one theory:

The fatty acids carried by LDL become oxidized and injure blood vessel walls. "The higher the level of LDL circulating in the blood, the more the wall gets injured.

Gotto went on to explain that an inflammatory reaction ensues. 

The blood vessel responds by a reaction to injury. It treats this as if you scratched your finger.

Atherosclerosis begins when white blood cells move into the lining and artery wall. They transform into foam cells, which accumulate fat and cholesterol. Other substances, such as calcium, also collect at the site. Eventually, an atherosclerotic plaque, or atheroma, forms.

These plaques thicken and harden the artery wall and bulge into the bloodstream to reduce or block blood flow. When an atheroma ruptures, it can trigger a blood clot leading to heart attack or stroke. Most commonly, atherosclerosis affects the left anterior descending coronary artery [one of the main arteries of the heart], the carotid arteries in the neck, and the abdominal aorta.

Risks Related to High Cholesterol

RELATED: CBD the Next All-Natural High-Blood Pressure Medicine?

Facts Regarding High Cholesterol in the U.S.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) informs of the following: [13]

  • In 2015–2016, more than 12% of adults aged 20 and older had total cholesterol higher than 240 mg/dL, and more than 18% had high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or “good”) cholesterol levels less than 40 mg/dL.
  • Slightly more than half of the U.S. adults (55%, or 43 million) who could benefit from cholesterol medicine are currently taking it.
  • 95 million U.S. adults aged 20 or older have total cholesterol levels higher than 200 mg/dL. Nearly 29 million adult Americans have total cholesterol levels higher than 240 mg/dL.
  • 7% of U.S. children and adolescents ages 6 to 19 have high total cholesterol.
  • High cholesterol has no symptoms, so many people don’t know that their cholesterol is too high. A simple blood test can check cholesterol levels.
  • Having high blood cholesterol raises the risk for heart disease, the leading cause of death, and for stroke, the fifth leading cause of death.

Recent statistics showed that non-Hispanic white women and Hispanic males had the highest total cholesterol levels of all ethnicities in the U.S.

Recent statistics showed that non-Hispanic white women and Hispanic males had the highest total cholesterol levels of all ethnicities in the U.S. Hispanic women and non-Hispanic blacks showed the lowest levels.

The CDC also advises that most healthy adults have their cholesterol levels checked every four to six years. If you're suffering from high cholesterol, have heart disease, or have a family history of either, you should have your cholesterol checked more often.

Sources: 

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25267241
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28636182
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24675010?dopt=Abstract&holding=npg
  4. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S102194981830036X
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26764326
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19555517
  7. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/providers/digest/cholesterol-science
  8. https://www.riversidevillageclinic.com/blog/posts/5-benefits-of-cbd-oil
  9. https://www.rxlist.com/consumer_simvastatin_zocor/drugs-condition.htm
  10. https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/tests/creatine-phosphokinase-test
  11. https://www.webmd.com/cholesterol-management/common-side-effects-cholesterol-meds#1
  12. https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/features/high-cholesterol-dangers#2
  13. https://www.cdc.gov/cholesterol/facts.htm

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