How to control high cholesterol naturally?
High cholesterol is one of the factors to control if we want to keep our heart and arteries in good condition. Adopting a balanced diet and exercising are positive actions in this sense, but many times they are not enough. For this reason, we are going to talk about some natural and effective substances without the side effects that some drugs occasionally cause.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a substance of lipid nature that we synthesize in our organism or that we can obtain from food. One of its main functions is to give structure and stability to cell membranes. It is also the biological precursor of sex and adrenal hormones.
As a non-soluble lipid in the blood, it circulates bound to lipoproteins. These are large molecular complexes and are basically of two types: low-density lipoproteins (LDL), which are responsible for carrying cholesterol from the liver to the tissues; and high-density lipoproteins (HDL), which are responsible for transporting it in the opposite direction to be metabolized in this organ. LDL is colloquially known as “bad cholesterol”, since it can be deposited in the arteries, while high density cholesterol is known as “good cholesterol” because it is capable of cleaning the blood vessels of the LDL deposited in them.
It is also worth knowing that dyslipidemia is the increase of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood. This increase is often associated with low levels of high-density lipoproteins, in addition to being a metabolic disorder related to atherosclerosis. In this situation, LDL lipids leak into the inner lining of the arteries, where they form atheromatous plaques. These lesions grow to clog blood vessels, and cholesterol control is a measure to prevent cardiovascular disease.
Natural nutrients to reduce high cholesterol
The prevalence of dyslipidemia is around 40% in the general population. This represents a high percentage, which is why it has been established as the most important cardiovascular risk, followed by arterial hypertension.
Food supplements containing certain natural components of vegetable origin can contribute to the control of this problem. Below, we will review some that have lipid-lowering properties.
This plant has its origin in India and Arabia. Its scientific name is Commiphora mukul and there is evidence pointing to its effect in reducing the levels of total cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL in the blood, while raising the good cholesterol.
The active substance is guggulipid, an extract from the resin of this tree containing guggulesterones. It acts at the level of the liver cell receptors that control the metabolism of these lipids. (1)
This is an alkaloid obtained from the bark and root of barberry. Plaques form and progress due to a combination of several factors. In addition to cholesterol, these include inflammatory activity of macrophages and damage to the vascular wall. These aspects seem to be controlled by extracts of this plant, which would also maintain normal blood lipid levels. They act in a similar way to statins, but without their side effects, such as liver and muscle damage. (2)
Olive leaf contains polyphenols, including hydroxytyrosol and oleuropein. It is possible that they contribute to increasing HDL, in addition to acting as substances that prevent the oxidation of cholesterol contained in LDL, one of the causes of plaque formation. According to a study published in 2016, olive leaf polyphenols have been shown to be favourable for the cardiovascular system by regulating normal vascular endothelial function and plasma lipids. (3)
Red fermented rice yeast
The active principle of this yeast is the substance called monacolin K and is obtained by using this microorganism (Monascus purpureus) to ferment rice, prepared in a traditional way in China. In some studies, this substance seems to give better results than placebo in the prevention of coronary events. The mechanism involved is the blockade of hepatic synthesis, similar to drugs used to control blood cholesterol. (4)
Probiotic bacteria are essential for the maintenance of the intestinal microbiota. Specifically, Lactobacillus reuteri may decrease cholesterol absorption by several mechanisms. These include the conversion of cholesterol into coprostanol and the absorption of this substance in the membranes of the bacilli.
The consumption of these microorganisms seems to significantly reduce total and LDL cholesterol, as pointed out by the conclusion of a meta-analysis of 15 randomized studies performed in 2017. (5)
This substance, also known as vitamin B3, could prove useful in controlling total cholesterol and triglyceride levels. The mechanisms involved include stabilization of adipose tissue deposits, inhibition of triglyceride synthesis and a decrease in the catabolism of the proteins that make up HDL lipoproteins, thereby increasing their levels in the blood. (6)
Sugar cane juice extract contains policosanol, a mixture of alcohols. Scientific evidence suggests that they have lipid-lowering activity and a role in the prevention of atherosclerosis by reducing hepatic cholesterol synthesis.
A dose of 5 milligrams twice daily for 6 weeks significantly decreased total cholesterol by 62 % and LDL cholesterol by 21.5 %, according to a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. (7)
There is evidence that coenzyme Q10, when administered in the form of supplements, would positively modify the prognosis of cardiovascular diseases through the inhibition of LDL cholesterol oxidation, preventing the formation of atheroma plaques. In that sense, blood levels higher than 3.5 micrograms per millilitre raise the rate of improvement. (8)
This trace element is involved in the metabolism of lipids, proteins and carbohydrates. As chromium picolinate, it is part of cell membranes, where it improves tissue sensitivity to insulin. Thus, the study of chromium supplementation indicates a reduction in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol in people with insufficient intake (9)
High cholesterol is a cardiovascular risk factor that we can control with certain measures. Some plants and their extracts provide us with alternatives that could be useful to achieve this objective due to their lipid-lowering effects.