OATMEAL AND BARLEY
Oatmeal and barley have lowered my cholesterol significantly. How do they work?
Oatmeal and barley are rich sources of soluble fiber. They bind to cholesterol in the digestive tract and keep it from being absorbed.
PLANT STANOL ESTERS
I was surprised that you didn’t include a reference to plant stanol esters in your response to a question about lowering cholesterol. Six years ago my husband’s cholesterol was at 385. He didn’t want to take statins because of interactions with other health problems. His cardiologist recommended that he use at least one tablespoon of Benecol at each meal and make some other dietary changes. This brought his cholesterol down to 185, and the balance of HDL versus LDL was restored to a healthier level.
The FDA has concluded that stanol esters can lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. Spreads such as Benecol, Promise activ, and Take Control contain these plant products. We are delighted to learn that your husband’s dietary changes had such a profound impact on his cholesterol levels.
RED YEAST RICE
I heard on the news that red yeast rice can help lower cholesterol, but I’d like to hear some pros and cons. Are there dangerous side effects? Someone told me red yeast rice can cause liver problems. Is that true?
For centuries, people have used red yeast rice in food as a preservative, flavoring, and coloring agent. It makes Peking duck red, for example, and is also used in red rice vinegar. It has also been used in traditional Chinese medicine for indigestion and to promote blood circulation. Red yeast rice can also lower cholesterol. It contains compounds related to statin-type cholesterol-lowering drugs such as lovastatin (Mevacor). A recent study in China shows that red yeast rice can nearly halve the risk of a second heart attack.1 One of our readers reported success with red yeast rice: “For years I balked at taking a statin, but my cholesterol rose in spite of attempts to control it with diet. I tried Pravachol but did not like the way I felt. My cardiologist suggested red yeast rice. Within six weeks my LDL level had dropped from 187 to 123.” Some people experience side effects, including muscle pain and weakness and liver damage, so anyone taking red yeast rice should be under medical care and have regular liver enzyme tests.
Joe Graedon & Terry Graedon, The People’s Pharmacy: Quick & Handy Home Remedies, published by National Geographic