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Product Review: Review of Cholesterol-Lowering Supplements (Sterols and Policosanol)
 

Initial Posting: 7/18/14 Last Update: 9/27/17

Sterol, Stanol, and Policosanol Supplements for Cholesterol-lowering Reviewed by ConsumerLab.com Sections: Jump to a section by clicking on its name. What They Are:
According to the American Heart Association, 102.2 million Americans age 20 and older (almost 50 percent of American adults) have elevated blood cholesterol levels, a key risk factor for heart disease. Lifestyle changes such as improving diet, losing weight and increasing exercise are often effective. However, various supplement ingredients may be helpful as well, lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad cholesterol"), raising high-density lipoprotein (HDL or "good cholesterol"), and improving the LDL/HDL ratio. Some supplements may also reduce triglycerides.

Supplement ingredients that have been used to reduce cholesterol include sterols and sterol esters (produced in the normal refinement of vegetable oils, or alternatively as a byproduct of papermaking from the oil of pinewood pulp), stanols and stanol esters (substances closely related to sterols that are derived from the same sources), red yeast rice (a yeast grown on rice), high doses of niacin (a B-vitamin), policosanol (a waxy substance from sugar cane, beeswax, wheat germ or rice bran wax), guggulsterone (a gum resin from a tree sap), garlic, fish oil, and soy protein. Soluble fiber in the diet as well as moderate intake of alcohol can also improve cholesterol levels.

What They Do:
The amount of evidence supporting the various cholesterol-lowering supplements varies. The best evidence is for sterols, stanols and their esters, soy protein and high dose-niacin (sold as a supplement as well as a prescription drug). Be aware, however, that there are safety concerns regarding the use of some of them. Below is a summary of information about several of the most popular ingredients used for cholesterol-lowering. See ConsumerTips™ for more information about the forms, suggested dosage, and safety considerations. In addition to the uses indicated above, these ingredients have other potential actions and uses (see the links below to the Natural Product Encyclopedia on this site).

It should be noted that while sterols and stanols can lower cholesterol, no study has shown a direct reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease (see Concerns and Cautions below).

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