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  • By Jane Hart, MD

Exploring Natural Options for Lowering Cholesterol

While medications play an important part in treating cholesterol disorders, some people prefer to try a range of management options, including lifestyle and behavior changes. A new study explores one such option for lowering cholesterol and finds that that in people with high cholesterol, tocotrienols—components of vitamin E—may help lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.

In people with high cholesterol, tocotrienols—components of vitamin E—may help lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol

Supplement improves cholesterol levels

In this study, 32 people with high cholesterol were randomly assigned to receive either 300 mg of mixed tocotrienols (six capsules a day, each capsule containing 30.8% alpha-tocotrienol, 56.4% gamma-tocotrienols, and 12.8% delta-tocotrienol) or placebo capsules containing 200 mg of soybean oil, daily for six months. Cholesterol blood levels were checked before supplementation and monthly for the study duration. Participants were not taking cholesterol-lowering medication.

The tocotrienol supplement group experienced a decrease in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol after four months of treatment compared with the placebo group whose levels were essentially unchanged.

The study authors comment that “tocotrienols are compounds belonging to the vitamin E family and are found abundantly in palm oil and cereal grains,” which are becoming increasingly known for their antioxidant effects, blood-thinning properties, and, now, cholesterol-lowering activity.

Take action to lower cholesterol

High cholesterol may contribute to the development of chronic disease including heart and vascular disease, and while medications may be important in treating cholesterol disorders, there are plenty of things that you can start doing today to move those numbers in the right direction. Here are some tips:

  • See a doctor. If you have high cholesterol or don’t know your cholesterol levels—see a doctor to learn more. Lifestyle behavior change in the areas of nutrition and exercise will usually help improve levels in people with mildly to moderately elevated cholesterol levels. People with chronic disease or who have very elevated cholesterol levels may need treatment with medication. Always talk with a healthcare professional before taking a supplement in order to learn more about the risks and benefits.
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet. Eating a low-cholesterol, low-fat diet can help keep cholesterol levels in check. Eat plenty of fruits and veggies, choose a low-fat protein source, and eat plenty of fiber and whole grains. Avoid excess fat, sugar and alcohol.
  • Exercise regularly. Regular moderate to vigorous exercise may help lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol. Health organization guidelines recommend that adults engage in 60 minutes of exercise most days of the week and children 90 minutes a day.

(Functional Foods in Health and Disease: 2011;3:106–17.)

Jane Hart, MD

Jane Hart, MD, board-certified in internal medicine, serves in a variety of professional roles including consultant, journalist, and educator. Dr. Hart, a Clinical Instructor at Case Medical School in Cleveland, Ohio, writes extensively about health and wellness and a variety of other topics for nationally recognized organizations, websites, and print publications. Sought out for her expertise in the areas of integrative and preventive medicine, she is frequently quoted by national and local media. Dr. Hart is a professional lecturer for healthcare professionals, consumers, and youth and is a regular corporate speaker.

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