When your cholesterol is too high, you're at risk for a variety of health issues, including heart disease and stroke. But if you've changed your diet and exercise routine and still haven't gotten your cholesterol levels down, a cholesterol-lowering supplement may help. Supplements use natural ingredients to help lower your cholesterol without the significant side effects that prescription drugs may have. If you're not sure what to look for in a cholesterol-lowering supplement, though, our buying guide has all the tips you need to find the best option for your health needs, including our picks for the three top products. Our favorite supplement contains ingredients scientifically proven to contribute to healthy cholesterol levels and even provides a 100% satisfaction guarantee for added peace of mind.
Considerations when choosing cholesterol-lowering supplements
Types of cholesterol
When you're shopping for cholesterol-lowering supplements, it's important to understand the difference between the various cholesterol values in your blood. Cholesterol-lowering supplements usually improve your cholesterol levels by lowering your LDL levels and/or increasing your HDL levels.
LDL (low-density lipoprotein) is what most people think of as "bad cholesterol." It helps move cholesterol through your body and causes plaque to build up inside your arteries when present at high levels. The plaque then reduces blood flow, which can result in a heart attack, stroke, blood clots, heart disease, kidney disease, and artery disease. For most individuals, an LDL level above 100 mg/dl is considered high.
HDL (high-density lipoprotein) is what most people think of as "good cholesterol." It removes LDL cholesterol from the body by moving it to the liver, where it can be excreted. This helps reduce heart disease and stroke risk. For most individuals, an HDL level above 60 mg/dl is considered healthy.
Triglycerides are fats that contain excess energy from the food you eat. A high triglyceride level can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. For most individuals, a triglyceride level above 150 mg/dl is considered high.
Total blood cholesterol is the combined value of HDL, LDL, some triglycerides, and other fatty proteins in your blood. For most individuals, a total blood cholesterol level below 200 mg/dl is considered healthy.
Some cholesterol-lowering supplements contain a single active ingredient, while others use a blend of several active ingredients to help support healthy cholesterol levels. Some effective ingredients to keep an eye out for include:
Psyllium husks, which may lower LDL cholesterol
Omega-3 fish oil, which may lower triglycerides
Flaxseed, which may lower LDL cholesterol
Niacin, which may lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol (In high doses, niacin can cause liver damage, so consult with your doctor before using a niacin supplement.)
Green tea extract, which may lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides
Plant sterols, which may reduce total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol
Policosanol, which may lower LDL cholesterol
Garlic, which may lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol
Soy protein, which may lower LDL cholesterol
Taste and odor
Some of the ingredients used in cholesterol-lowering supplements are known for their poor taste and odor. In particular, formulas with fish oil can have a strong fishy smell and aftertaste, while supplements that contain garlic often smell and taste strongly of garlic. If these particular flavors and odors bother you, opt for formulas that are specifically described as tasteless and/or odorless.
Some supplements also include ingredients like parsley seed that can help keep your breath smelling fresh after you take them.
Dosage and quantity
When you're shopping for a cholesterol-lowering supplement, it's important to consider the size of the recommended dose and how many doses are in a bottle to determine what kind of value you're getting. For example, if a bottle contains 60 capsules and a dose is two capsules, you'll only have enough supplements for one month before you'll need to repurchase. The more doses that a bottle contains, the better its value.
Q. What are the side effects of cholesterol-lowering supplements?
A. Most cholesterol-lowering supplements don't have serious side effects, but they can still be unpleasant. Depending on the ingredients, the supplements may cause bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, stomach pain, itching, and flushing. If you have an allergy to any of the ingredients, you can experience an allergic reaction as well.
Q. Can I take cholesterol-lowering supplements with prescription medication?
A. Some cholesterol-lowering supplements may interact with medications, including blood thinners. Always consult with your doctor before taking a supplement.
Cholesterol-lowering supplements we recommend
Our take: A supplement that's effective for lowering LDL cholesterol and supporting healthy cholesterol levels overall.
What we like: Contains Pantesin Pantethine, an ingredient that's proven to boost healthy cholesterol. Can also raise nitric oxide for men and women to support healthy veins. Manufacturer offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee.
What we dislike: One of the pricier supplements on the market.
Best bang for your buck: BRI Nutrition Odorless Garlic Softgels
Our take: A high-quality, odor-free garlic supplement that helps support healthy cholesterol levels and boost your immune system, too.
What we like: Garlic supplement that's truly odorless. Can help lower blood pressure with just a few days of use. Easy-to-swallow softgels. Formula includes parsley seed to help keep your breath fresh.
What we dislike: Can cause burping that tastes like garlic.
Choice 3: Garlique Garlic Dietary Supplement
Our take: A well-known supplement that uses garlic to naturally lower cholesterol and has many repeat users.
What we like: Made by one of the most popular garlic supplement manufacturers. Comes in tablet form that's extremely easy to swallow. Doesn't have a strong garlic taste, so it doesn't leave you with breath that smells like garlic. No burping either.
What we dislike: Does not cause a dramatic reduction in cholesterol levels for all individuals.
Jennifer Blair is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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