Natural Ways to Lower Cholesterol

Pterostilbene, a berry compound found in blueberries and grapes, can help lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease.

Pterostilbene, a berry compound found in blueberries and grapes, can help lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease. It was found that pterostilbene was similar in activity to ciprofibrate, a commercial drug that lowers LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.

Agricultural Research Service Chemist Agnes Rimando said: “But ciprofibrate can have side effects such as muscle pain and nausea. Pterostilbene targets the same specific receptor as ciprofibrate, but it’s likely to have fewer side effects.”


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The announcements generated a wave of attention for pterostilbene, not only in the United States but in other countries as well. At least two news organizations in Great Britain directly attributed a boom in British blueberry sales to Rimando’s findings. And the Oxford lab’s results have since been cited by companies marketing products ranging from blueberry extract to juice concentrate to commercially available pterostilbene itself.

Researchers recently ran a study with high-triglyceride male volunteers, aged 39 to 66, to see the effect of DHA (short for docosahexaenoic acid, a polyunsaturated fatty acid found naturally in oil-rich fish, such as salmon and mackerel) on both fasting and postmeal triglycerides and on the quantities and sizes of HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and VLDL cholesterol particles.

High trigylcerides, high total cholesterol, and a high number of small particles of LDL cholesterol in the blood increase risk of cardiovascular disease.

For 90 days, half of the 34 volunteers consumed about one-half teaspoon of DHA daily, in addition to regular meals, while the other half consumed the same amount of olive oil.

DHA, found in fish, lowers cholesterol

Blood samples showed that DHA reduced by 22 percent the number of small LDL cholesterol particles, the size most harmful to the cardiovascular system. It also decreased triglyceride levels by 24 percent in both fasting and postmeal samples, while increasing the number of large LDL cholesterol particles by 127 percent.

Conducted by federal and university co-investigators, this is one of only about a dozen studies that have been done in humans to assess the effects of DHA by itself.

In the Dietary Intervention Study in Children (DISC), children who adopted a recommended low-fat, low-cholesterol diet decreased their intake of total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol within the first year of the study maintained lower levels of LDL cholesterol for several more years.

“This is the first study of this size to examine the long-term effects of reduced dietary saturated fat and cholesterol intake among children,” said Dr. Claude Lenfant, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) director. “DISC confirms that dietary changes in children with high levels of LDL cholesterol may thwart the development of atherosclerosis without adverse effects.”

The Dietary Intervention Study in Children was conducted at six medical centers and involved more than 650 children who began the study at ages 8 through 10. Eligible participants had levels of LDL cholesterol that were considered borderline to high (111.5 mg/dL or higher for boys and 117.5 mg/dL or higher for girls).

In the study blood cholesterol levels in the intervention group were lower than those in the usual care group, with significant differences between the groups found at one year and three years. At three years, LDL cholesterol levels of DISC participants in the intervention group were on average 2.5 percent lower than the LDL cholesterol levels of those in the usual care group.

Breastfeeding in infancy is associated with lower body mass index (BMI) and increased HDL cholesterol in adulthood compared to bottle-fed participants according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

Overall 26 percent of participants had been breastfed as infants, as reported by their mothers, and those participants were found to have lower BMI and increased levels of HDL cholesterol in adulthood.

A new analysis of a subgroup of participants in the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) hormone therapy clinical trials suggests that healthy, postmenopausal women whose blood cholesterol levels are normal or lower are not at increased, short-term risk for heart attack when taking hormone therapy.

In particular, postmenopausal women who had no history of heart disease but whose ratio of low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol to high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or “good”) cholesterol was less than 2.5 were at no increased risk of heart attack or death due to heart attack from taking estrogen plus progestin or estrogen alone, compared to their peers who did not take hormone therapy, after four years of follow up.

However, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) recommends that women should not take hormone therapy to prevent heart disease, and women who choose to use hormone therapy for menopausal symptoms should use the lowest possible dose for the shortest duration.

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