Supplements that are a waste of money: garlic, turmeric, fish oil do not lower cholesterol
Six popular supplements touted to lower ‘bad’ cholesterol and improve heart health are a waste of money, a study has found.
Fish oil, cinnamon, garlic, turmeric, plant sterols and red yeast failed in new research comparing them to prescribed statins.
Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic followed 199 adults ages 40 to 75 for 28 days while they each took a statin, a supplement, or a placebo.
None of the supplements had any effect on cholesterol levels, and garlic and plant sterols actually had the opposite effect.
The prescription statin, however, caused an average drop in LDL cholesterol — also known as “bad” cholesterol — of nearly 38 percent after 28 days.
High cholesterol, a condition in which there are too many lipids (fats) in the blood, can be a precursor to heart attack, stroke and numerous cardiovascular problems.
Dr. Luke Laffin, an author of the study at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, said of the supplements: ‘They do not consistently produce cholesterol reduction.’
Researchers urged Americans with mildly elevated cholesterol levels to focus their energy on regular exercise and maintaining a healthy diet.
It’s the latest myth-busting study to reveal that over-the-counter supplements have little effect. Research earlier this year showed multivitamins are a waste of money for most people and there is little evidence that they prevent chronic disease.
More than half the population regularly takes supplements in the US, spending $1.5bn (£1.2bn) a year. In the growing supplement industry, Britons spend £430 million a year on vitamin or mineral pills, with an estimated 20 million taking some form of supplement every day.
Americans spend about $50 billion a year on supplements billed as “heart healthy,” but the most popular ones on the market have shown little or no benefit in helping people with high LDL cholesterol
People taking the prescription statin Crestor saw a 37.9 percent drop in bad cholesterol after 28 days and an average reduction in total cholesterol of 24 percent, which was significantly less than in the placebo group or any dietary supplement.
What are statins?
Statins are a group of drugs that can help lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels in the blood.
High levels of LDL cholesterol are potentially dangerous, as they can lead to hardening and narrowing of the arteries, a key factor in cardiovascular disease, the UK’s biggest killer.
A doctor may recommend taking a statin if:
- you have been diagnosed with a form of cardiovascular disease
- Your personal and family history suggests that you are likely to develop cardiovascular disease at some point in the next 10 years, and lifestyle measures have not reduced this risk
Research has shown that about one in every 50 people who take statins for five years will avoid a serious event, such as a heart attack or stroke, as a result.
There are 5 types of statins available on prescription in the UK:
- atorvastatin (Lipitor)
- fluvastatin (Lescol)
- pravastatin (lipostat)
- rosuvastatin (Crestor)
- simvastatin (Zocor)
However, the drug is not without controversy.
Some people argue that the side effects of statins, which can include headaches, muscle pain, and nausea, and that statins can also increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, hepatitis, pancreatitis, and vision problems or memory loss are not worth the potential benefits.
Plant sterols are substances that are similar to cholesterol but are made from plants. They are usually found in nuts, seeds and vegetable oils.
Red yeast is derived from yeast grown on white rice grains and contains the compound monacolin K, the same ingredient found in the prescription cholesterol-lowering drug lovastatin.
The latest results also show that low-dose statins offer important beneficial effects on one’s cholesterol profile.’
People in the statin group had an average reduction in total cholesterol of 24 percent, which was significantly less than in the group that received a placebo or any dietary supplement.
The study was funded by AstraZeneca, which makes the statin under the brand name Crestor.
The drug works by slowing down the production of LDL cholesterol in the liver. Too much LDL cholesterol causes plaque to build up in the arteries, impeding blood flow to and from the heart.
If left untreated, high cholesterol can lead to coronary artery disease, the most common form of heart disease in the US and the leading cause of death.
High cholesterol can also lead to carotid artery disease, which can lead to stroke, as well as peripheral artery disease and high blood pressure.
High cholesterol is a worldwide problem — causing more than 4.5 million deaths in 2020, up 19 percent from 2010, according to the American Heart Association 2022. statistics.
The optimal level of LDL cholesterol falls below 100 mg/dL. Participants in the latest study had levels ranging from 70 mg/dL to 189 mg/dL.
in the US, almost 94 million people over the age of 20 have a total cholesterol level above 200 mg/dL, which is considered too high. Twenty-eight million US adults have high total cholesterol levels exceeding 240 mg/dL.
Americans can work to lower their cholesterol by eliminating trans fats and reducing saturated fats found primarily in red meat and full-fat dairy products, adding fiber and eating lots of vegetables.
They also recommend that people eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon and walnuts, as well as olive oil and berries, which can raise HDL cholesterol.
The FDA regulates dietary supplements as foods, not drugs, and therefore does not have the power to approve them before they go on the market.
The agency has some regulatory authority over supplements, but not to the same extent as prescription drugs.
Supplement manufacturers must adhere to agency best practices, and supplement manufacturing facilities must be registered with the FDA before beginning operations.
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