“Let’s remember that most new supplements have not been tested in long-term trials, so their safety is not really established,” points out William Castelli, MD, renowned director of the Framingham (MA) Cardiovascular Institute. That’s why heart health pros look most favorably on these older supplements with safe track records — and lots of use:
“Given that it works so well, it’s surprising to me that more doctors don’t consider recommending niacin to their patients,” says UCLA’s Dr. David Heber. Also known as nicotinic acid or vitamin B3, niacin treatment produces impressive results, says niacin researcher Stephanie Gardner, PharmD, of the College of Pharmacy at the University of Arkansas in Little Rock. It reduces LDL cholesterol by 10% to 20%, reduces triglycerides by 20% to 50%, and raises “good” HDL cholesterol by 15% to 35%.
Take niacin only under a physician’s supervision. The required dose of 2 to 3 g can have serious, though rare, side effects. Dr. Heber says that skin flushing, an annoying but harmless side effect, can usually be alleviated. A month’s supply of niacin (2 g per day) costs about $11.
About 15 g soluble fiber daily lowers LDL cholesterol 5% to 10% by binding cholesterol-containing bile acids in the intestine and excreting them. But getting that much soluble fiber every day through diet alone isn’t always practical. Soluble fiber supplements, taken with meals, make it easy. Here are two supplements with published studies:
- Metamucil (Procter & Gamble) – It is milled from the husk of the psyllium plant and processed in a way that guarantees quality and effectiveness, says James Anderson, MD, cholesterol expert at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. A month’s supply (orange flavored, smooth textured variety), providing 10 g soluble fiber a day (3 rounded tablespoons), costs about $15.
- Fiber Plan (Shaklee Corporation) – Fifteen grams a day of this psyllium/pectin/ guar gum/locust bean gum mixture lowered LDL by 10.5% in six months. Three 10 oz drinks per day provide 15 g soluble fiber. A month’s supply costs about $60. Call 800-SHAKLEE (742-5533).
An analysis of 38 research studies showed that a daily intake of 47 g of soy protein lowered LDL 13% and total cholesterol 9%. Dr. Anderson says the cholesterol reduction may be due to compounds called isoflavones. He recommends supplements with 30 to 60 mg of isoflavones per day. Here are two soy protein powders with controlled isoflavone levels:
- Take Care High Protein Beverage Powders (Protein Technologies Int’l). One 2-scoop serving contains 57 mg isoflavones. A month’s supply costs about $30. Available only by calling 800-445-3350.
- GeniSoy soy protein shake (GeniSoy Products Co.). One scoop contains 43 mg of isoflavones. A month’s supply costs about $20. Sold in health food stores.