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.

From Mayo Clinic to your inbox

Sign up for free, and stay up to date on research advancements, health tips and current health topics, like COVID-19, plus expertise on managing health.

To provide you with the most relevant and helpful information, and understand which information is beneficial, we may combine your email and website usage information with other information we have about you. If you are a Mayo Clinic patient, this could include protected health information. If we combine this information with your protected health information, we will treat all of that information as protected health information and will only use or disclose that information as set forth in our notice of privacy practices. You may opt-out of email communications at any time by clicking on the unsubscribe link in the e-mail.

Feb. 13, 2021 See more In-depth

See also

  1. After a flood, are food and medicines safe to use?
  2. Arcus senilis: A sign of high cholesterol?
  3. Birth control pill FAQ
  4. Cholesterol concerns? Get moving
  5. Cholesterol concerns? Lose excess pounds
  6. Cholesterol level: Can it be too low?
  7. Cholesterol medications: Consider the options
  8. Cholesterol ratio or non-HDL cholesterol: Which is most important?
  9. Cholesterol test kits: Are they accurate?
  10. Cholesterol: Top foods to improve your numbers
  11. Coconut oil: Can it cure hypothyroidism?
  12. Congenital adrenal hyperplasia
  13. Prickly pear cactus
  14. Eggs and cholesterol
  15. Eggs: Bad for cholesterol?
  16. Fasting diet: Can it improve my heart health?
  17. Five foods to lower your cholesterol
  18. Flaxseed best when ground
  19. Hashimoto's disease
  20. HDL cholesterol: How to boost your 'good' cholesterol
  21. Herbal supplements and heart drugs
  22. High cholesterol
  23. High cholesterol in children
  24. High cholesterol treatment: Does cinnamon lower cholesterol?
  25. Hypothyroidism: Can calcium supplements interfere with treatment?
  26. Hypothyroidism diet
  27. Hypothyroidism and joint pain?
  28. Hypothyroidism: Should I take iodine supplements?
  29. Hypothyroidism symptoms: Can hypothyroidism cause eye problems?
  30. Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
  31. Is your diet hurting your heart?
  32. Lowering Triglycerides
  33. Mediterranean diet recipes
  34. Menus for heart-healthy eating
  35. Metabolic syndrome
  36. MUFAs
  37. Niacin overdose: What are the symptoms?
  38. Niacin to improve cholesterol numbers
  39. Nuts and your heart: Eating nuts for heart health
  40. Pomegranate juice: Can it lower cholesterol?
  41. Is there a risk of rhabdomyolysis from statins?
  42. Soy: Does it reduce cholesterol?
  43. Soy: Does it worsen hypothyroidism?
  44. Statin side effects
  45. Statins
  46. Statins: Do they cause ALS?
  47. Statins: Should you be on one?
  48. Lifestyle changes to improve cholesterol
  49. Trans fat: A double whammy
  50. Trans fat
  51. Trans fat substitutes: Not a slam dunk
  52. Triglycerides: Why do they matter?
  53. VLDL cholesterol: Is it harmful?
  54. Wilson's syndrome: An accepted medical diagnosis?