MENU
ConsumerLab.com Answers

Supplements for Lowering Cholesterol and for Heart Health

Question:
Which supplements can help lower cholesterol and keep my heart healthy? Are there any to avoid?

Answer:
Heart disease remains the leading cause of death for both women and men in the U.S.  Some supplements may help keep your heart healthy, but others may potentially contribute to heart disease.

Heart Healthy Supplements:
There is strong evidence that sterol esters (like the phytosterol beta-sitosterol) and stanol esters, available in supplements and in some "heart healthy" margarines and spreads, can significantly lower LDL cholesterol. (There is also some evidence that taking curcumin may increase the cholesterol-lowering effects of phytosterols.) You can get more information about this, plus our tests and reviews of products in the Cholesterol-Lowering Supplements Review >>

Garlic has been shown to reduce total cholesterol and triglycerides, and may slow the development of atherosclerosis.  One brand of garlic in particular has been shown to lower triglycerides more than others. You can get more information about these, including our tests and reviews of products in the Garlic Supplements Review >>

Red yeast rice can significantly lower cholesterol, but products vary widely in their amounts of natural, active statin compounds.  You can get more information and our tests and comparisons of products in the Red Yeast Rice Supplements Review >>

High-dose niacin has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol. However, it should not be taken with statin-containing supplements (red yeast rice), or with statin drugs, which could increase the risk of serious events like stroke.  You can get more information about niacin, including our tests and reviews of products in the B Vitamin Supplements Review >>

Replacing some saturated fat in the diet with olive oil may help lower risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. You can get more information about extra virgin olive oil and see our Top Picks among products in the Extra Virgin Olive Oil Review >>

Oats and oat-based cereals can be a good source of soluble fiber, which can help to lower cholesterol reduce the risk of heart disease. See our Oat Cereals Review for the clinical evidence, including how much you need to consume in order to significantly reduce cholesterol.

Soy protein, in adequate dosage, has been shown to modestly lower total cholesterol and improve LDL/HDL ratio. Preliminary research suggests lunasin, a specific protein peptide isolated from soy, may play a major role in soy's effects. Our Review of Cholesterol-Lowering Supplements includes information about these and other supplements for reducing cholesterol — also see the Soy article.

Some, but not all studies suggest that pantethine (which is not a B vitamin but is often included as an ingredient in B vitamin supplements) may help to lower LDL cholesterol.

CoQ10 has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of adverse cardiovascular events by 50% in people with moderate to severe heart failure, and may be helpful in reducing some of the side-effects of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs. You can get more information about CoQ10 (and ubiquinol, a related compound), including our tests and reviews of products, in the CoQ10 and Ubiquinol Supplements Review >>

Vitamin D may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease in those with low blood levels of vitamin D but not be of benefit for people who do not have a vitamin D deficiency. You can get more information about vitamin D, including our tests and reviews of products in the Vitamin D Supplements Review >>

Similarly, improving magnesium to adequate levels can slightly reduce blood pressure, and magnesium blood levels in the mid to high normal range have been associated with a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, as noted in the Magnesium Supplements Review >>

Berberine may help to reduce blood pressure, triglycerides and total and LDL cholesterol (as well as blood sugar) in people with type 2 diabetes; however, be aware that it may interact with several cholesterol-lowering medications, potentially increasing blood levels (and the risk of side effects) of these drugs.

Cocoa powders and dark chocolate rich in flavanols can improve vascular function and blood pressure, and even raise levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol.  You can get more information about these, as well as our tests and reviews of products in the Cocoa Powders, Extracts, Nibs, Supplements, and Chocolates Review >>

Certain probiotics may modestly lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and "bad" LDL cholesterol — although they do not appear to increase "good" HDL cholesterol. There is mixed evidence as to whether probiotics reduce triglyceride levels. More information, plus our tests of popular products, is found in the Probiotic Supplements and Kefirs Review >>

Supplements That May Be Harmful:
Vitamin E supplements, once touted for heart health, have not been found to provide a benefit for people with cardiovascular disease, and could actually be harmful for some heart disease patients, since they could reduce the effectiveness of cholesterol-lowering agents.

There is reason to believe that L-carnitine and lecithin could actually contribute to atherosclerosis in certain people, and it may be wise to avoid long-term supplementation with either one.

Supplements That May Not Help:
Calcium -- Although getting sufficient calcium may decrease your risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, too much may be harmful. A study found that calcium (800 mg) given once daily to post-menopausal women with high cholesterol caused a significant increase in serum cholesterol (up by about 50 mg/dL) and an increase in the thickness of lining of the carotid artery - changes associated with heart disease. Only if you don't get enough calcium should you consider a supplement, and it generally recommended that calcium supplementation not exceed 500 mg per dose, or more than 900 mg per day. You can get more information about these supplements, including our tests and reviews of products, in the Calcium Supplements Review >>

Fish Oil -- Despite the fact that omega-3 fatty acids that have been linked to some heart healthy effects, it seems that the benefits come from consumption of fish, and not supplements.  Only if you don't eat fish might fish oil supplements provide some heart benefit.  Also, because fish oil supplements can have a blood-thinning effect, they should be used with caution in people taking other blood-thinning supplements or medications. You can get more information about these supplements, including our tests and reviews of products, in the Fish/Marine Oil Supplements Review >>

Multivitamins have not been found to reduce (nor increase) the risk of heart attack, stroke or death from cardiovascular disease. You can get more information about these supplements, including our tests and reviews of products, in the Multivitamin and Multimineral Supplements Review >>

Policosanol -- Although there is some evidence from several studies from Cuba suggesting a cholesterol-lowering effect, other studies have failed to find this effect, as noted in our Cholesterol-Lowering Supplements Review>>

Learn more about supplements for lowering cholesterol:



Does garlic lower cholesterol? >>

If I already take red yeast rice, would adding high-dose niacin help further reduce my cholesterol levels, and would this be safe? >>

What is lunasin and does it really reduce cholesterol? >>

Can probiotics help lower cholesterol? >>

Does glucosamine raise "bad" LDL cholesterol? >>

I read that sterol supplements to lower cholesterol like CholestOff can block the absorption of vitamins. Is that true? >>

To lower my cholesterol, I am taking a phytosterol supplement. Will taking other supplements, like red yeast rice or fish oil, help lower my cholesterol even further? >>

For two years, I used a red yeast rice brand which ConsumerLab.com's report showed to contain the highest amount of lovastatin. With just one pill per day, it kept my cholesterol lower (down to 205 from 260 before starting). I switched to a supermarket store brand because it was cheaper and my cholesterol jumped to 278 (taking 2 pills per day)! I don't think the store brand had anything in it -- is that possible? Can you test it? >>

My doctor warned me that red yeast rice can cause liver damage - is that true? >>

When is the best time of day to take red yeast rice? >>



See other recent and popular questions >>
Comments
Add Comment

Matt16622   March 24, 2018
I've done multiple lipids tests with fish oil and krill oil. The most extreme was 5 grams of Kirkland fish oil a day for three months. I've tried various other strict regimens of fish and krill oil, but not in that high of dose. The 5G fish oil test actually left me with higher triglycerides, up ~10%-20%, but not conclusively. In the end, none provided any noticeable benefit to my LDL, HDL, and especially my triglycerides (I have hypertriglyceridemia). It's good to see that acknowledged in your post here.

Gabriel16438   February 8, 2018
I was very surprised to read the following in the above article:

"There is strong evidence that sterol esters (like the phytosterol beta-sitosterol) and stanol esters, available in supplements and in some "heart healthy" margarines and spreads, can significantly lower LDL cholesterol."

Really???!!!. Do you recommend margarine and spread as something healthy and especially good for reducing risk of heart disease? What about the trans fats that margarine and spreads are so famous about? I feel like I am in the '60 again when butter was evil and margarine was godsend!

ConsumerLab.com   February 8, 2018
Hi Gabriel - The "margarines" referred to are not the old "stick margarines" with trans fats, but those made with polyunsaturated fats and no trans fats.

richard16435   February 7, 2018
Pantethine can help lower cholesterol.
and
small bad particles should be evaluated with cholesterol.

ConsumerLab.com   February 13, 2018
Thank you for your comment Richard. We've added information about pantethine to the answer above.

Jeanne11640   February 1, 2017
What about Acetyl L-Carnitine? Does it have the same potential problems re atherosclerosis??

ConsumerLab.com   February 1, 2017
Hi Jeanne - Please see the "Concerns and Cautions" section of the Acetyl-l-carnitine (https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/_/Acetyl-L-Carnitine/#cautions).

Kenneth11081   July 17, 2016
What about vitamin K2?
There are many observational studies showing that K2 directs calcium away from arteries and into bones.
What do you think?

ConsumerLab.com   July 18, 2016
Hi Kenneth - Please see the "What It Does" section of the vitamin K review for more about vitamin K and coronary artery calcification: https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/_/Vitamin_K/#heartdisease

Linda9811   June 19, 2016
I use flaxseed oil caps rather than fish oil for my omega-3. How does that fit in for "heart healthy"?

ConsumerLab.com   June 20, 2016
Hi Linda - Please see the "What It Does" section of the Flaxseed Oil Review (https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/_/flaxseed/#whatitdoes) for more about cardiovascular effects. You may also find this CL Answer helpful: Is it better to take fish oil, flaxseed oil -- or both? (https://www.consumerlab.com/answers/_/fish_or_flax_oil/).

Shirley169   September 22, 2014
Regarding the statement that fish oil can have a blood-thinning effect, I think this should be researched because I have read that they do not thin the blood. Fish oil 'conditions' the blood so that the platelets are slippery and do not stick together. For many people taking blood thinners, with monitoring, their medication can safely be reduced.
Another benefit of good fish oil is it does not have mercury.

Doron168   September 21, 2014
One of the most beneficial dietary supplement for cardiovascular health was left out of your list. Among its many benefits such as anti-inflammation and blood clotting, RESVERATROL provides blood thinning properties, and softens the arteries walls. Both benefits may prevent heart-attacks and strokes.

ConsumerLab.com   October 20, 2014
Hi Doron - The Resveratrol Review does mention potential cardiovascular effects of resveratrol while pointing out that, to date, clinical studies have not established a clear benefit in this regard - and even some concerns. You can read more about this in the What It Does section (https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews//Resveratrol_Red_Wine/#whatitdoes) and Concerns and Cautions section (https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews//Resveratrol_Red_Wine/#cautions) of the report.

Greg102   August 12, 2014
Recent Cacoa (as pure as possible eg. 85% cacao) studies show improved circulation and imply improved cardio vascular function. Should be considered for further review to include here.

Tod103   August 12, 2014
Great point, Greg. Per your suggestion, we added a link to the Cocoa Review above, which covers that research -- as well as our product tests.

This CL Answer initially posted on 1/31/2014. Last updated 3/20/2018.

Add Comment...

Share your thoughts and comments about this topic in the space below. Please abide by the following rules:
  • If you make a statement of fact, such as whether a type of treatment does or does not work, state your basis -- such as personal experience or a published study.
  • If you make a positive or negative comment about a product, note whether or not you have a financial interest in the product or in a competing product.
  • Please be respectful in your tone.
  • Please do not submit any type of HTML markup or scripting as it will not be accepted.
Comment:

Add Comment...

Share your thoughts and comments about this topic in the space below. Please abide by the following rules:
  • If you make a statement of fact, such as whether a type of treatment does or does not work, state your basis -- such as personal experience or a published study.
  • If you make a positive or negative comment about a product, note whether or not you have a financial interest in the product or in a competing product.
  • Please be respectful in your tone.
  • Please do not submit any type of HTML markup or scripting as it will not be accepted.
Comment:

Edit Comment...

You can modify your comment below. Please be aware the comment will have to approve the changes before they will be shown:
Comment: