Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Many ways to lower level of bad cholesterol

Healthy lifestyle good first step

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‘Should I stop taking my cholesterol- lowering drug (CLD) and switch to the natural product Sytrinol?"

"Can I take this remedy along with a CLD?"

"Are there other natural ways to lower blood cholesterol?"

These and other responses to my column about Sytrinol indicate that large numbers of people on CLDs are worried about their potential side effects and would prefer a natural product.

To recapitulate, Sytrinol consists of citrus and palm fruit extract. This is why these products are often called plant sterols as they're found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, cereals and vegetable oils. Sytrinol has been available for several years and passed the test of time by lowering total cholesterol 30 per cent, LDL bad cholesterol 27 per cent and triglycerides 34 per cent, and increases HDL good cholesterol by four per cent.

Sytrinol contains polymethoxalted flavones and tocotrienols and works by decreasing the oxidation of bad cholesterol, a factor in plaque formation and narrowing of coronary arteries. And by decreasing inflammation of arteries and lubrication of platelets associated with clotting, there's less chance of a fatal coronary.

But there are several other natural products available, such as Oasis CholestPrevent, Vita Health Cholesterol and Cholesterol Essentials that lower blood cholesterol. Another product, Polycasonal, is made from sugar cane and also decreases blood cholesterol.

Many readers ask, "Are these products safe?" Scientific studies have been carried out on plant sterols and Health Canada now permits their addition to dietary products.

Others ask if they can discontinue a prescription drug and take one of these natural products. The answer is "no." Your own doctor must decide on medication changes. It's been aptly said that, "He who treats himself has a fool for a patient."

But you don't always have to go to health food stores to lower blood cholesterol. Why not try the grocery store?

Dr. David Jenkins, director of clinical nutrition at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, placed 27 men and women with high cholesterol levels on two handfuls of almonds (75 grams) every day for the first month. They received half the amount of almonds in the second month.

The result was good news for the almond industry. The full dose of almonds reduced bad cholesterol by 9.4 per cent and half the dose by 4.4 percent. Almond snacks also resulted in improvement in both total cholesterol and good cholesterol. Jenkins claims that two handfuls of almonds can decrease the risk of cardiovascular illness by 20 per cent and one handful by 18 per cent. But remember nuts are loaded with calories.

Jenkins also reported that the risk of cardiovascular disease can be decreased 25 per cent if your diet includes other cholesterol-lowering foods such as oat bran, barley, psyllium and soy products. Other studies show that the omega-3 fatty acids in fish can help to decrease bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol.

Many patients don't realize that vitamin C also helps to decrease bad cholesterol. The best routine is to take 3,000 milligrams (mg) of ascorbic acid powder (vitamin C) after the evening meal. This converts cholesterol into bile acids that are then excreted in the bile to the intestines. Then, before breakfast, take the same amount of ascorbic acid, which often results in a bowel movement. This removes bile acids before they can be reabsorbed and converted back to cholesterol. If 3,000 mg of C does not cause a bowel movement, gradually increase the amount of ascorbic acid.

What about the liquor store? Before dinner I usually enjoy a cocktail as many studies prove that alcohol increases good cholesterol. It also lubricates the blood so there's less chance of a fatal blood clot. But never take this advice if you don't drink alcohol or are not a moderate drinker.

Remember, natural remedies are less effective if you're still smoking and not getting regular exercise. Moreover, we know that excessive weight gain often leads to Type 2 diabetes, hardening of arteries and high blood cholesterol. A faulty lifestyle is killing millions of North Americans.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 3, 2011 A25

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