Study: Popular Supplements Ineffective at Lowering Cholesterol

Updated
This article was updated with information regarding the source of funding for the study.

A new study found that six popular dietary supplements, fish oil, garlic, cinnamon, turmeric, plant sterols, and red yeast rice, are ineffective at combating “bad” cholesterol.

Key takeaways:
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    Study finds fish oil, garlic, cinnamon, turmeric, plant sterols, and red yeast rice are ineffective for fighting “bad” cholesterol.
  • arrow-right
    Research shows statins are superior to dietary supplements, proving to lower cholesterol.
  • arrow-right
    Making smart personal health choices can increase your risk to avoid heart disease more than dietary supplements.

A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology compared dietary supplements against statins, finding the FDA-approved drug for reducing blood levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. LDL is also known as “bad” cholesterol, which is tied as an instigator of heart disease.

Luke Laffin, the study’s author and co-director of the Center for Blood Pressure Disorders in the Heart, Vascular & Thoracic Institute at Cleveland Clinic, believes this study shows significant evidence that dietary supplements are ineffective in reducing LDL cholesterol.

“If you’re taking over-the-counter supplements for heart health or for cholesterol-lowering, you should reconsider,” Laffin said to Cleveland Clinic Newsroom. “Unfortunately, many U.S. consumers believe cholesterol health supplements are safer than prescription medications and believe supplements are as effective, or more effective than statins.”

Statins prove to be effective

Laffin and his team evaluated 190 adults between the ages of 45 and 65 over a 28-day period. Those involved were placed in groups featuring a placebo, fish oil, cinnamon, garlic, turmeric, plant sterols, or red yeast rice, along with a light 5 mg/day of a statin medication.

The study found average LDL reduction at the study conclusion was prevalent in 37.9% of those receiving statin. Those consuming the dietary supplements just about equaled the results of the placebo.

Statins do lead to some side effects versus the dietary supplements tested, including:

  • Headache
  • Tiredness, weakness
  • Digestive system issues including diarrhea or constipation
  • Sleeping issues
  • Muscle pain

Study limited by sample size

Although this study shows no benefits of dietary supplements mentioned, it is limited due to the participants observed. None of the population had severe cardiovascular disease, but 42% had high blood pressure — which was linked heavily to high cholesterol. Also, 3.5% were current smokers, and 33 were former smokers. Smoking can lead to higher amounts of “bad” cholesterol.

Although none of the participants had severe cardiovascular disease, a solid portion contained precursors to heart health issues. The study does not probe into the effects of the supplements on a diverse scale, mostly focusing on middle-to-older aged individuals. Perhaps, consuming dietary supplements over a long-term period could provide some benefits.

It is important to stay a step ahead before high cholesterol impacts your health, leading to many cases of heart disease.

How to fight high cholesterol

High cholesterol is currently a major epidemic in the United States. According to the CDC, around 7% of children and teens ages 6 to 19 have high total cholesterol. Heart disease is currently the leading cause of death in the U.S., with high cholesterol only increasing the chances.

High cholesterol has no symptoms and can only be detected through blood work, therefore putting pressure on the individual to eat an appropriate diet. Our body naturally creates appropriate amounts of cholesterol, therefore not making it a necessity to acquire through various foods.

Food with high amounts of cholesterol include:

  • Steak, beef roast, ribs, pork chops
  • Processed meats
  • Fried foods
  • Candy, sweets, pastries, and many other deserts with high sugar
  • Eggs
  • Shellfish
  • Fatty dairy products

Foods like eggs, shellfish, and lean meat are great foods for nutritional value despite containing high cholesterol. When consuming foods with high cholesterol, it is essential to intake them in moderation. It is nearly impossible to avoid a breakfast with bacon and eggs or an afternoon barbeque with hot dogs in a burger. Try to limit those occasions, and make the healthier option available — like having a turkey burger instead of the quarter-pound beef burger. Oats, beans, and other foods with unsaturated fats can help prevent high levels of LDL.

Exercise is another great method to lower cholesterol. For kids, 60 minutes per day is recommended along with two-and-a-half hours per week for adults of physical activity according to the U.S. Surgeon General. Other bad habits to limit high cholesterol include smoking and high amounts of alcohol consumption.

Being overweight or obese can increase your risk for higher levels of “bad” cholesterol. The CDC recommends assessing your body mass index (BMI) to determine if you are at a healthy weight.

Results from the Supplements, Placebo or Rosuvastatin Study were funded by AstraZeneca with an unrestricted grant. However, Cleveland Clinic was granted full control of the study’s study methodology, data analysis, and discussion of clinical implications.

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Comments

MaryB MaryB
prefix 1 month ago
So much pharma packed info., which is extremely bias and quite frankly has now been proven inaccurate through extensive huge randomized controlled variables studies. Would love to know who financed that study. I can pretty much guess...who is pushing statins that actually cause heart damage...who does that benefit? The American Stardard Diet will kill as sure as my name, long before red meat, eggs, healthy fats. Educate yourself through unbiased sources.
Judith G Shepherd Judith G Shepherd
prefix 1 month ago
Statins are big cash cow for Pharm. They nearly destroyed my muscle. Been using garlic, salmon, tuna and walnuts. Doing fine. Being a cardiac survivor of 16 years and 2 stents since 1998 plus 3 more in 2006, I vouch for my combo.
Jennifer Ngure Jennifer Ngure
prefix 1 month ago
Supplements are no ment to be taken like medicine. Medical works fast, with sometimes very serious side effects..I witnessed a friend almost die because of Stations.... Taking Omega 3 supplements or garlic is ment to be a regular dietary habit, so this study makes little sense. Eskimos and the Japanese who have a high Omega 3 diet, do not get high cholesterol. This is the observation that brought out the Omega 3 supplementation issue. They consume fatty, omega 3 rich almost daily.
DMJ DMJ
prefix 1 month ago
I take cinnamon and berberine for both blood sugar and cholesterol as well as triglycerides. Though berberine is not mentioned in the study it has worked really well for me. I also take 500 mg vitamin C and eat chocolate both dark and milk. My lipids could not be better. Total cholesterol and ldl have both decreased while the hdl has increased but my triglycerides have decreased significantly. I have tried to take statins but don’t have the enzymes to break them down so they are very dangerous medications for me due to the toxicity of my genetic inability to break them down.
What works for one person won’t always work for another because of the differences in our genes. If you ask me I don’t think 37% effectiveness of statins is really that great a track record.
 Lou Lou
prefix 1 month ago
Like I'm gonna believe the CDC, after all the misinformation they put out on the Covid.
Connie Kirkpatrick Connie Kirkpatrick
prefix 1 month ago
Big Pharma at it again. Supplements have been helping me lower and keep my cholesterol down for a few years now along with changing my diet. No prescriptions needed thank you.
Rod Horton Rod Horton
prefix 1 month ago
I have no doubt that statins will lower cholesterol. What I haven’t seen, is any study that proves lower cholesterol is beneficial. Based on what I’ve read, high triglycerides and low HDL are more predictive of heart disease. Also 75% of heart attack patients have low/normal levels of cholesterol. If anyone has any studies that prove lowering TC and LDL as beneficial, please share.
Leon Brodeur Leon Brodeur
prefix 1 month ago
You're using the wrong ones.
1.) K2MK7 + D3 normalized my total chloresterol from 240s to 198.
2.) Beet Root reduced my LDL from 148 to 114.

Many supplements have interactions with medications. It's always important to look up interactions and double check with your physician prior to adding supplements to your regimen.
Kelly Kelly
prefix 1 month ago
Well this may or may not be true, how can you trust any study that is sponsored by a manufacturer of statins?
Lee Lee
prefix 1 month ago
I would like to know who funded the study. I've recently seen several of these articles promoting statins over a healthy diet, and I'm betting they're funded by someone who has a stake in the statin industry. I stopped taking statins years ago, choosing exercise and a healthy diet instead. It is worked for me. I stopped them because the damn manufacturers kept putting out lower and lower thresholds, obviously so they can sell more statins to people who didn't really need them.
Donald Lewis Donald Lewis
prefix 1 month ago
Nonsense that sugary foods, candy etc. are high cholesterol. If they contain butter or milk they could be but most are not.
David Kaleky David Kaleky
prefix 1 month ago
Factually wrong. Over the last 20 years when I stopped plant sterols , sometimes with garlic or gulgul...my ldl and tri. went up. I think the constant was the sterols. I am also on low dose of statin. I can give a new result in 3 months, bc I forgot to reorder, and my bad cholesterol shot up. I am back on plant sterols only. If health news wants to contact me in 3 months when I get another checkup, I will share results
Raymond DiPasquale Raymond DiPasquale
prefix 1 month ago
Who funded the study? Once you discover that information then you can start to gauge it with the other methodologies used to obtain the results and come to your own best conclusion.
Emma Bovary Emma Bovary
prefix 1 month ago
Big Pharma.
They also managed, it seems, to lower the acceptable limit for cholesterol and thus pumped up the need for statins in population.