Keeping your cholesterol levels under control is one of the biggest things you can do to improve your heart health. Diet and exercise are key for doing this, but for some people, adding a cholesterol supplement might be a good idea too.
Cholesterol supplements are formulated with ingredients like garlic and red yeast rice to decrease levels of cholesterol (especially LDL cholesterol, often called “bad cholesterol” because of its association with plaque buildup in arteries).
Many cholesterol supplements also include additional ingredients like CoQ10 that are oriented towards boosting heart function or cardiovascular health overall, and add to the benefits of lowered cholesterol.
Here are some ways a cholesterol supplement can help you hit your heart health goals:
Cholesterol supplement benefits
1. Cholesterol supplements often contain garlic, a proven supplement for heart health
How exactly garlic works isn’t well-known. It may have some cholesterol-lowering effects and may prevent heart disease according to one study (1). This particular study was a meta-analysis, which means it looked at a wide variety of different studies to draw a single, overarching conclusion.
They concluded that garlic powder could reduce LDL cholesterol, blood pressure, and a variety of other risk factors that may make you more likely to experience heart disease. However, they also decided that variations in conclusions drawn by different studies may have been the result of different processing procedures by the garlic powder each study used.
In other words, the garlic powder you get does matter. You want a high-quality powder that is highly concentrated, or it might not work.
While the effects of garlic on cholesterol are a little confusing, there is substantial evidence that it can affect things like blood pressure. So, even if it doesn’t lower your cholesterol substantially, it may reduce your other risk factors for heart problems (2).
2. Cholesterol supplements often use red yeast rice to combat LDL levels
This ingredient can lower your LDL cholesterol levels because it contains a chemical known as monacolin K.
This chemical has the same chemical makeup as lovastatin, which is a cholesterol-lowering medicine.
However, it is tough to find monacolin K in red yeast rice in the USA. Here, it is labeled as a medicine, so it cannot be sold as a supplement (3).
Because of this, most of the red yeast rice in supplements do not do much to lower your cholesterol. Still, there is some evidence that it might still work, just at a slightly lower level.
3. Cholesterol supplements use all-natural herbal extracts
When it comes to taking supplements, it requires little to no effort on your part. All you have to do is purchase the correct supplement and then take it as instructed. Compared to other strategies for lowering your cholesterol, this is extremely easy.
Most of the time, cholesterol is controlled using diet and medication. When combined with these strategies, supplements can be beneficial, and won’t require significantly more effort on your part. This is one of the reasons many people turn to supplements when they learn that their cholesterol is too high.
4. Lowering LDL cholesterol can reduce your risk of heart attacks
One of the reasons that lowering your LDL cholesterol is so important is because it is associated with a variety of heart effects. This fatty-like substance can build up in your bloodstream and narrow or block arteries. Blocked arteries are not right.
Your liver produces all the cholesterol you need. But you often consume a lot with your food as well. However, all of this cholesterol is simply “extra.” It is recommended to eat as little cholesterol as possible, especially if you have problems with your heart or circulation (4). Having elevated LDL cholesterol levels has been associated with an increased risk of heart problems (5).
Because cholesterol is so innately tied to heart health, taking a cholesterol supplement can improve your overall heart health and prevent heart problems before they start. Untreated heart disease can be quite severe and can lead to everything from heart damage due to a lack of oxygen to heart failure.
5. Cholesterol supplements may be able to help those with diabetes
Diabetes and cholesterol have a strange relationship. Those with diabetes tend to have more LDL particles that stick to arteries. They also tend to have damaged blood vessels more commonly from the presence of LDL. Because of this, cholesterol and diabetes tend to go hand-in-hand (6).
If you have diabetes, you may want to consider taking a cholesterol supplement to prevent diabetes from forming. Of course, you should also speak to your doctor and learn about other ways you can lower your chance of developing diabetes.
Cholesterol supplement side effects
Cholesterol supplements can interfere with other medications. Some cholesterol supplements can interfere with some medications, especially those that treat diabetes. This is because many cholesterol supplements mirror the way that certain medications treat cholesterol. If you take a supplement and a medication, you may end up taking way more than you need.
It is essential to choose the cholesterol supplements you take carefully when you’re on medications. You don’t want to lower your cholesterol too much since your body does need cholesterol to function. You want cholesterol in your system, just not too much.
Cholesterol supplements can cause muscle pain and damage. This is especially true for supplements that contain statins (8). Often, this pain is some sort of soreness or tiredness. While these muscle pain can occur after physical exercise, muscle pain caused by cholesterol supplements won’t have any apparent cause.
However, there is some confusion involved here. The risk of muscle pain when taking a statin only increases by about 5%, so it is still quite rare. But, the number of people who complain about muscle pain is higher when they’re taking a statin than when they’re not – even when they’re taking a placebo. In other words, if people know that their medication might cause muscle pain, they’re more likely to cause muscle pain.
Many of these patients might be mis-associating their muscle pain with their medication when that might not be the case.
Cholesterol supplements can cause a variety of generalized side effects. On top of muscle pain, some supplements can also cause other side effects. Most of these only apply to supplements that contain statins. Most others do not cause high levels of side effects or any side effects at all. Because of this, side effects are more of an issue when you are taking statin-containing drugs.
Side effects, including things like headaches, difficulty sleeping, flushing, drowsiness, dizziness, and nausea. Sometimes, abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea is also common. In these cases, taking the supplement with food can help prevent gastrointestinal symptoms in many cases (9).
Cholesterol supplement dosage
You should always follow the dosage instructions on the back of the supplement bottle you purchase. Different supplements have different ingredients and different concentrations. Because of this, we cannot provide an overarching dosage for all supplements.
Instead, we highly recommend following the dosage instructions that go with your supplement. Most companies have their dosage at that particular level for a reason, so it is essential to stick with their instructions.
Cholesterol supplement benefits FAQs
Q: What vitamins are good for cholesterol?
A: Niacin is a B vitamin that is commonly used to boost good cholesterol by lowering bad cholesterol. This is often used as a prescription for lowering cholesterol, so you may be able to get a high-dose from your doctor.
However, you can also find lower doses available in a supplemental form that you can purchase without a prescription.
Q: Do turmeric cholesterol supplements lower cholesterol?
A: Yes. To a point. Studies have found that turmeric can lower the overall amount of cholesterol in your system, which includes LDL cholesterol (10). These effects are quite significant. Still, turmeric works best when used alongside other supplements and treatments – just like most supplements.
We recommend choosing a supplement containing multiple ingredients to ensure that you’re covering all your basis. It is best if you can enact dietary changes as well. Work with your doctor to figure out the best plan for you.
Q: Do you have to walk for a cholesterol supplement to work?
A: Walking can help lower cholesterol. However, it works better for some people than others. For example, those who have diabetes may benefit most from walking. Typically, though, you don’t have to walk extra. Instead, you just need to meet the minimum requirement for adult exercise every day – which is about 30 to 40 minutes of moderate exercise.
However, while walking can be useful for lowering your overall cholesterol levels, it is not necessary to walk to make a supplement work. Many work by themselves just fine. Still, you may notice better results if you walk as well since you’ll be attacking your cholesterol levels while you’re at it.
Q: Can green tea supplements lower cholesterol?
A: Yes, green tea extract is a powerful supplement for heart health, and several studies have found that it can lower total and LDL cholesterol.
A recent meta-analysis of 20 different randomized controlled trials confirmed the benefits of green tea for cholesterol levels (11).
Related: Our top cholesterol supplement picks
Controlling your cholesterol levels is critical for heart health, and for some people, a cholesterol supplement might be part of the solution, alongside diet, medication, and exercise.
Particularly when it comes to LDL cholesterol, keeping levels of this blood biomarker under control helps decrease your risk for heart disease, and possibly strokes too, making cholesterol management a worthy goal for your long-term health.