Healthy and Natural Alternatives to Statins: Nutritional Supplements Reduce Cholesterol without the Side Effects
Over 12 million Americans are on prescription drugs to lower elevated serum cholesterol and triglyceride levels. The most commonly prescribed medications for addressing serum lipids are the HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors (statins). Statins are relatively new drugs that were originally derived from fungi but for the most part have been synthetically modified. They significantly reduce serum cholesterol levels by blocking the pathway for its production in the liver.
Examples of common statins:
- Atoravastin (Lipitor)
- Lovastatin (Mevacor)
- Rosuvastin (Crestor)
- Simvastatin (Zocor)
Adverse Effects and Expense
While statins are effective in lowering cholesterol, they are associated with several side effects like muscle pain, liver damage, gastrointestinal upset, and skin rashes. In addition, some researchers are exploring possible connections with neurological conditions like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Though some statins are about to lose their patent restrictions, they are still relatively expensive with monthly doses ranging up to $150/month.
For those seeking alternatives to statin therapy – beyond diet and exercise modification, there are several viable options.
Gum resin from the bark of an Indian herb called Comiphora mukul contains plant sterols (gugulsterones) which lower cholesterol by:
- Decreasing production of cholesterol in the liver
- Enhancing metabolism by modulating the effects of thyroid hormones
- Decreasing fat absorption in the gastrointestinal tract
- Enhancing excretion of cholesterol in bile salts
- Stimulates the liver to remove low density lipoproteins (LDL) from blood
Dosage and Toxicity
C mukul resin generally contains about 2.5% gugulsterones with an effective daily dose being about 25 mg of gugulsterones, three times a day. Beyond occasional indigestion, little has been reported in the way of adverse effects.
Inositol Hexanictinate (Inositol Hexaniacinate)
This novel material is abbreviated IHN and consists of six molecules of niacin (vitamin B3) attached to one of inositol. Niacin has proven effectiveness in lower total cholesterol while improving the good HDL portion and thinning the blood. The drawback is that regular niacin causes flushing, pruritis, nausea, and may cause liver damage. IHN appears to be just as effective in lowering cholesterol without the troubling side effects.
Actions of Inositiol Hexanictinate:
- Reduction of LDL
- Reduction of fat synthesis in the liver
- Increase high density lipoproteins (HDL)
- Enhances fibrinolysis (“thins the blood”)
- Significantly decreases blood pressure (hyptensive)
Recommended dosages of IHN for addressing elevated cholesterol range from 400mg to 4 grams per day but generally tend towards 400 mg 3-4 times daily. Liver enzymes should be checked every couple of months for the first year. No adverse effects have been reported with IHN but due to the nature of niacin it is contraindicated in those with liver conditions or on blood thinners.
Several herbs and materials deserve honorary mention:
- Soluble Fiber
- Hawthorn Berry
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids (Especially Krill Oil)
- Plant Sterols
- Red Yeast Rice
While these materials appear to have a promising future, the verdict is still out regarding use and effectiveness. For instance, while many Cuban studies exalt plant waxes from sugarcane (policasanol), US studies have failed to replicate the results. Red yeast rice is a product of fermentation with the microorganism Monascus purpureus and lowers cholesterol quite well. So well that the pharmaceutical industry analyzed and then derived the first statin, lovastatin (Mevacor) from it. They then lobbied the United States government to designate it a drug, making the purchase of “real” red yeast rice illegal.