Participating in nutrition counselling and taking supplements - such as red yeast rice and fish oil - may be just as effective as medication for lowering levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol, say researchers from the University of Pennsylvania.
Weight loss may also be easier with the non-pharmaceutical approach of nutrition counselling and dietary supplementation.
In this new study, 74 people with high cholesterol were assigned to either a lifestyle change program or a regimen of cholesterol-lowering drugs (statins) to determine how each approach affected their body weight, blood fat (triglyceride) and blood cholesterol levels.
People in the lifestyle change program received nutrition counselling to educate them about their diet - as well as daily doses of red yeast rice (600 milligrams) once a day, and three capsules of fish oil twice a day.
Those who were randomized to the drug group received 40 milligrams of simvastatin (Zocor) every day and no nutrition counselling or supplements.
After three months, people who participated in the nutrition counselling and supplementation program experienced the same drop in their "bad" LDL cholesterol levels as those who took the statin. Triglyceride levels didn't improve in the statin group - but fell 29 percent in the lifestyle change group.
Weight loss was significantly higher in the lifestyle change group. They lost an average of 10 pounds, compared to less than a pound for people taking the statin.
Researchers believe the red yeast rice and fish oil supplementation may account for the major difference in triglyceride and blood cholesterol levels between the statin group and those recieving nutrition counselling and supplements.
A daily dose of 600 milligram of red yeast rice - which comes from fermented red yeast and rice - has the equivalent cholesterol-lowering effect of a daily dose of 10 to 15 milligrams of statins.
The study authors warned that red yeast rice supplementation is not right for everyone and needs to be administered under a doctor's supervision.
Nutrition strategies to lower blood cholesterol include eating a diet that's high in soluble fibre from large rolled oats, ground flaxseed, and whole fruits. For more information on how to lower blood cholesterol by changing your diet, check out Leslie Beck's Foods that Fight Disease.This study was published in the July 2008 issue of the Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
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