How to avoid cholesterol supplement scams?

Many people seek ways to lower their cholesterol levels to prevent heart disease, which is the leading cause of death worldwide. Low-cholesterol dietary supplements are tempting. When considering cholesterol supplements, consumers should be informed.

Putting lifestyle factors first 

Before considering supplements, implement evidence-based lifestyle changes:

  • Follow a heart-healthy diet low in saturated and trans fats. Eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, fish, lean poultry, nuts and olive oil.
  • Exercise regularly, aiming for 30-60 minutes daily. Activities like brisk walking, swimming, and cycling boost HDL.
  • Achieve and maintain a lean body weight. Extra body fat harms cholesterol levels.
  • Men and women should limit their alcohol intake to 1 drink each daily. Heavy drinking hits HDL hard.
  • Avoid tobacco smoke exposure by quitting smoking. Smoking drives down HDL.

Such lifestyle measures should be the foundation of any cholesterol-lowering regimen. Many individuals, sufficiently lower cholesterol without supplements.

Identify trustworthy supplements

Diet and exercise should come first. But for some, cholesterol remains stubbornly high despite lifestyle measures. In those cases, medications or supplements under a doctor’s supervision help. When considering cholesterol supplements, identify products likely to be safe and effective. Seek supplements containing well-researched natural ingredients shown to improve cholesterol markers without significant side effects. Common examples include omega-3 fatty acids from fish, flaxseed, psyllium husk fiber, garlic, plant sterols, and stanols. Look for clinical trial evidence supporting cholesterol benefits. Also, ensure the product undergoes independent quality testing, such as U.S. Pharmacopeia or verification. It helps confirm the supplement contains the labeled ingredients in stated amounts, without impurities or contamination.

Avoid risky and unproven products  

Be wary of “breakthrough” or “miraculous” supplements making outrageous health claims. Also, steer clear of cholesterol products lacking clinical evidence or quality testing. Risky substances to avoid include:

  • Hormones like DHEA and pregnenolone. These influence cholesterols but have significant side effects. Avoid without medical oversight.
  • Coenzyme Q10. While safe for heart failure patients, it lacks strong cholesterol-lowering evidence. Don’t substitute CoQ10 for proven treatments.
  • Herbs like guggul, red yeast rice, and policosanol. Evidence does not support their use and they interact with medications.
  • “Natural” statins like red yeast rice. These contain medicinal statins identical to prescription cholesterol drugs. Don’t use without medical guidance due to side effects.
  • Chelation therapy. Practitioners claim this eliminates arterial plaque, but it lacks scientific validity and can be dangerous.

Watch for red flags

Be alert for worrisome phrases and marketing tactics when evaluating cholesterol supplements:

  • Claims of “easy”, “fast” or “guaranteed” results. No legitimate treatment yields easy cholesterol reductions for everyone. Maintaining lower cholesterol levels requires continued, long-term effort.
  • Promises the product works where others have failed. It signals exaggerated marketing rather than a medical breakthrough. Approach such assertions skeptically.
  • Use of terms like “ancient remedy” or “hidden cure”. This language plays to notions that pharmaceutical companies conceal natural cures for profit. No convincing evidence supports these conspiracy theories.
  • Recommendations to ditch standard treatments. Supplements help lower cholesterol, but should not replace doctor-approved care without medical guidance.

Before adding or changing cholesterol treatments, discuss them with your physician. They can help determine if a supplement makes sense for your situation, identify problematic ingredients, and provide oversight if you experience side effects later on. To avoid cholesterol scams, use skepticism, gather knowledge, and consult professionals.