Cholesterol-lowering supplements may be helpful

Diet and exercise are proven ways to reduce cholesterol. Cholesterol-lowering supplements may help, too.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

If you're worried about your cholesterol level and have started exercising and eating healthier foods, you might wonder if a dietary supplement could help. With your doctor's OK, here are some cholesterol-improving supplements to consider.

Cholesterol-improving supplement What it might do Side effects and drug interactions
Berberine May reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or "bad") cholesterol and triglycerides May cause diarrhea, constipation, gas, nausea or vomiting; may cause harm to babies during pregnancy and breastfeeding
Fish oil May reduce triglycerides May cause a fishy aftertaste, bad breath, gas, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea; may interact with some blood-thinning medications
Flaxseed, ground May reduce LDL cholesterol May cause gas, bloating or diarrhea; may interact with some blood-thinning medications
Garlic May slightly reduce cholesterol but studies have been conflicting May cause bad breath, body odor, nausea, vomiting and gas; may interact with some blood-thinning medications
Green tea or green tea extract May lower LDL cholesterol May cause nausea, vomiting, gas or diarrhea; may interact with blood-thinning medications
Niacin May lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides; may improve high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or "good") cholesterol May cause itching and flushing, which are more common at the higher doses usually needed to have an effect on cholesterol
Plant stanols and sterols May reduce LDL cholesterol, particularly in people with a genetic condition that causes high cholesterol (familial hypercholesterolemia) May cause diarrhea

Red yeast rice — Natural doesn't mean safe

Some red yeast rice products contain a substance (monacolin K) that is chemically identical to the active ingredient in lovastatin (Altoprev), a prescription medication that lowers cholesterol. Because there is variability in quality from manufacturer, the amount of monacolin K can vary widely from product to product.

Products that contain monacolin K can cause the same types of side effects as lovastatin, which include damage to the muscles, kidneys and liver. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration has ruled that dietary supplements that contain more than trace amounts of monacolin K are unapproved drugs and can't be sold legally as dietary supplements.

Dietary supplements may not be enough

While dietary supplements can help, you might also need prescription medications to get your cholesterol numbers to a safe level. Be sure to tell your doctor if you take any type of dietary supplement, because some can interact with medications you may be taking.

Feb. 13, 2021 See more In-depth

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