NOTE: The Mayo Clinic has updated some of its recommendations on cholesterol-lowering supplements. See our Blog post at
The Mayo Clinic has posted on its website an interesting podcast entitled “Cholesterol-lowering supplements: which work and which don’t.” This broadcast interview features the views of Dr. Brent Bauer, director of the Complementary and Integrated Medicine Program at Mayo Clinic.
Here are some of the highlights from the podcast:
–Plant sterols, particularly beta-sitosterol and sitostanol. These plant products act much like cholesterol and can reduce the absorption of cholesterol. Can be found in margarine or spreads. (Also included in some supplements, such as Douglas Labs’ Cardio-Edge.)
–Fish oil (omega-3 fatty acids). Strong effect on lowering triglycerides, one measure associated with cardiovascular risk.
–Flaxseed. 40-50 grams per day can have a substantial impact on cholesterol.
–Pomegranate concentrate. Needs more study, though recent research found that diabetic patients taking pomegranate concentrate were able to lower their cholesterol significantly.
–Policosanol, a waxy residue from sugar cane. Much positive data from Cuban researchers a few years ago, but no one outside Cuba has been able to replicate these studies, so there is now a great deal of skepticism about its effectiveness.
— Garlic. Once regarded as interesting for reducing cholesterol, but subsequent studies have shown its value to be very limited.
–Dr. Bauer has some good advice concerning mixing supplements and prescription drugs: “whenever you mix a dietary supplement and a medication, there’s always potential for interactions, what we call drug-herb interactions, so we’re very cautious about doing that. The one exception in this realm would be using one of those plant sterols that we talked about earlier — beta-sitosterol or sitostanol. Those have been studied in conjunction with statin medications, and what those studies show is that you can achieve further reduction, beyond what you’ve got just with the statin medication, by adding one of those plant sterols to your regimen.” We would also add that, among the dietary supplements, niacin has also been studied in conjunction with statins as a means to manage cholesterol. (Niacin is especially noteworthy in that it can help to raise levels of HDL (“good cholesterol”), which, in more recent years, has come to be seen as an important part of reducing cardiovascular risk.)
Listen to the Mayo Clinic podcast at