High cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease, though not the only important one. High triglycerides—blood fats that function somewhat independently of cholesterol—are also harbingers of heart disease. Several medications lower cholesterol effectively. Some even reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke. But many cholesterol-lowering drugs have side effects. Statin-type cholesterol-lowering medicines like atorvastatin (Lipitor) or simvastatin (Zocor) may cause muscle pain, weakness, or even a life-threatening muscle breakdown called rhabdomyolysis, which also threatens the kidneys. Drugs that are not statins, such as Zetia (included with a statin in Vytorin), may also cause muscle pain. Few cholesterol-lowering drugs reduce triglycerides. Consequently, many people are eager to learn of home remedies to try for lowering high triglycerides and cholesterol levels.
CERTO AND GRAPE JUICE
After a year, I got my cholesterol down from over 260 to below 220. Then sore joints led me to glucosamine and chondroitin. Now my cholesterol is over 240. I think there is a connection. My doctor recommended Certo and grape juice to lower cholesterol and possibly ease arthritis pain. How much do I need, and is there anything else natural I could try?
Research has not confirmed that glucosamine and chondroitin raise cholesterol, but other readers have reported a similar problem. You may be interested to note that grape juice has been shown to lower cholesterol. Soluble fiber in the form of liquid plant pectin (Certo) may have a similar benefit. Many readers tell us the combination also helps ease arthritis pain. One recipe involves adding two teaspoons of Certo to three ounces of grape juice and drinking it three times daily. Fish oil also can help lower triglycerides and ease joint pain, while psyllium can reduce cholesterol levels.
THE PEOPLE’S PHARMACY
Favorite Food #18: Grape Juice
The buzz about the benefits of red wine leads many to assume that grape juice is just a wimpy alternative for teetotalers. Nothing could be further from the truth. Research suggests that purple grape juice has some pretty powerful properties.
A review of the literature by investigators at Boston University reveals that compounds in grapes and grape juice can lower blood pressure, reduce risk of blood clots by inhibiting the clumping of blood platelets, block oxidation of bad LDL cholesterol, improve flexibility of blood vessels, and reduce inflammation.1 In a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of Korean men with high blood pressure, real Concord grape juice lowered blood pressure significantly more than fake juice.2 Evidence also suggests that grapes and grape juice can enhance immune function.3
One of the protective constituents in grapes is resveratrol. Plants make resveratrol in part to ward off bacterial and fungal infection, and this compound is especially abundant in the skin of red grapes. Research on animals suggests that resveratrol may have anticancer effects and may reduce the formation of plaque within the brain that may lead to Alzheimer’s disease.
A leading nutritional expert, neuroscientist James Joseph, recently published a summary of his research in which he concluded that “a greater intake of high-antioxidant foods such as berries, Concord grapes, and walnuts may increase ‘health span’ and enhance cognitive and motor function in aging.”4
Grapes also seem to work for coughs and arthritis. Over the years we have heard from hundreds of readers who sing the praises of this grape juice “cocktail” for arthritis: Combine one part apple cider vinegar with three parts apple juice and five parts grape juice, and drink four ounces daily. Alternatively, you can add two teaspoons of Certo (liquid pectin used by home canners to make jams and jellies thicken) to three ounces of purple grape juice, and drink this arthritis-fighting concoction three times daily.
Taking lovastatin has controlled my total cholesterol and bad (LDL) cholesterol. But my triglycerides were always very high. My doctor had no suggestions, so I decided to try cinnamon. After I started taking cinnamon, my triglycerides went from 350 all the way down to 150 in four months. I took one-fourth to one-half teaspoon daily with a glass of water.
Thanks for sharing your extraordinary results. We have heard from other readers who have managed to lower cholesterol and blood sugar with a daily dose of cinnamon. Some people report that this spice causes heartburn. We would encourage anyone who considers cinnamon to treat it as a drug and to check with a physician for monitoring of liver enzymes.
I was saddened to read about people suffering from the side effects of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs. In less than a year, I have lowered my cholesterol 30 points by doing nothing other than taking a tablespoon of cod-liver oil a day. It not only lowers bad cholesterol but also raises good (HDL) cholesterol. I wish more people knew about this very simple and safe remedy. One friend said it tastes bad, but that’s not true if you take Carlson or Nordic Naturals.
The benefits of fish oil are well established. There are more than 10,000 articles on fish oil in the medical literature. Many refer to its abilities to lower triglycerides and to raise HDL cholesterol. There is even a purified fish oil available as the prescription drug Lovaza. Fish oil also has anti-inflammatory properties.
THE PEOPLE’S PHARMACY
Favorite Food #17: Fish and Fish Oil
Fish is widely considered one of the most valuable foods you can eat. In just one week in 2002, three of the country’s most prestigious medical journals published separate studies demonstrating the same conclusion: People who eat more fish or take fish oil are less likely to die of a heart attack.1 Fish oil may help stabilize the electrical activity of heart cells, thereby lowering the risk of potentially life-threatening heart rhythm disturbances. It may work better as a preventive. A recent study showed daily consumption of margarine containing almost 500 milligrams of elcosapentaenoic acid, or EPA, and docosahexaneoi acid, or DHA—the fatty acids in fish oil—did not prevent second heart attacks.2 According to the American Heart Association, two servings of oily fish per week provide roughly 400 to 500 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids per day.
Research also suggests that including fish in the diet seems to protect the brain from strokes.3 So the old idea that fish is brain food appears to be true. A study of nearly 15,000 elders in China, Cuba, Dominican Republic, India, Mexico, Peru, and Venezuela found populations with higher fish intake had lower rates of dementia. The authors conclude that the epidemiological findings in many low-and middle-income countries are consistent with the “neuroprotective action” of omega-3 fatty acids.4
People who eat more fish are less susceptible to age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness. Collecting dietary data from some 2,500 people for years in the Blue Mountains Eye Study, Australian investigators found one serving of fish each week reduced the risk of developing early age-related macular degeneration by about 31 percent.5
Our readers also tout fish oil for easing morning stiffness, arthritis, and aches and pains. One reader wrote, “My husband is under a doctor’s care for arthritis. Within a day of starting fish oil, swelling began to go down in his fingers. He still takes prescribed medication, but in lower doses. This relief is so much better.”
Joe Graedon & Terry Graedon, The People’s Pharmacy: Quick & Handy Home Remedies, published by National Geographic