Dietary Supplements Don’t Lower ‘Bad’ Cholesterol, Study Finds

If you plan on ditching your cholesterol medications and using nutritional supplements instead, this new study will change your mind.

The study involves 190 adults aged 40 to 75 years. All the participants have no history of cardiovascular disease. Researchers randomized the participants into groups. Each participant was administered either a low-dose statin medication (Rosuvastatin 5mg daily), a placebo, or a supplement for 28 days.

The supplements given to the participants include fish oil, plant-based steroids, turmeric, garlic, cinnamon, or red yeast rice. At the end of the trial, researchers measure the percentage of LDL cholesterol from the baseline.

Findings of the Study

People given statin saw a 37.9% decrease in LDL and a 24% decrease in total cholesterol compared to other drugs and placebo. None of the participants taking supplements showed any signs of reduced LDL levels. Meanwhile, the statin drug helped reduce triglyceride levels and total cholesterol.

Supplements and Cardiovascular Health

Supplements have always had a mixed response regarding their effectiveness in cardiovascular health. Some studies say they can lower lipids, including other potential benefits against other cardiac risk factors.

A 2022 study shows fish oil supplements lower blood pressure. Similarly, a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that folic acid and B12 supplements help reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Some positive data do exist. However, the FDA regulates supplements differently. Consumers need professional guidance to identify the right supplement without the added risk.

Experts believe patients should consider the risk before treating high cholesterol with supplements. This is because high cholesterol is dangerous and a known cardiovascular risk factor. There is no strong and credible evidence of supplements lowering high cholesterol. At least, not something backed by science with credible results.

Another risk with supplements is drug interactions. With supplements, it is hard to say if they will interact with any medications the patient is taking.

Limitations of the Study

Well, do we blindly believe the above research and its claim? Well, the response by experts is mixed. Some experts point out some limitations in the study. Firstly, the study was conducted only for 28 days. So it’s unknown if supplements are ineffective or take longer to work.

Statins, on the other hand, starts working within a month.

The Council for Responsible Nutrition released a statement in response to the study. Dietary supplements and drugs work differently. Their primary intention is also different. Supplements are not used as a quick fix. Their effectiveness cannot be experienced within a limited span of as small as four weeks.

The council also questions the intention of the researchers behind the study. They believe the study was a setup for misdirection and failure of the supplements. The researchers used six supplements for the study. All the supplements are well-recognized in the market for their heart health benefits. However, only three of them are marketed as cholesterol-lowering supplements.

 Some research supports the idea of the long-term impact of dietary supplements. According to a study, people taking krill oil (omega-3) saw a more considerable drop in LDL levels after 12 weeks of consumption. Meanwhile, some research couldn’t find any effect of fish oil on LDL or total cholesterol levels in people with type 2 diabetes.

Cholesterol Management: A Well-balanced Diet and Medication is the key to a Healthy Heart

Diet, stress management, and exercise significantly contribute to lowering and managing high cholesterol. Experts believe people should focus on improving their overall diet quality, which depends on supplements.

Studies show that specific diets can reduce cholesterol. This includes the Nordic diet, Mediterranean diet, and plant-based diets.

Make sure to take foods enriched with vitamins and nutrients. Your diet should be a combination of heart-healthy and minimally-processed foods. This includes vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, and whole grains with dietary fibers.

Mediterranean diet is the best, according to most doctors. This is because it emphasizes vegetables, beans, legumes, fruits, whole grains, and heart-healthy oils.

Regardless of your diet, make sure to avoid foods with added sugar, saturated fats, and highly processed foods.

Foods like walnuts, avocados, and soy are also helpful in cardio health. Along with that, people should incorporate physical activities and stress management techniques like yoga and meditation.

Experts say making specific lifestyle changes can help reduce cholesterol and overall cardiovascular risk. Meanwhile, genetics also play a significant role. This means, some people (despite following a healthy lifestyle) may need cholesterol-lowering medications.

Studies have shown statin medications to help patients beyond managing cholesterol levels. It is associated with reducing the risk of depression. Some researchers believe it has a role in preventing cancer cell metastasis.


Taking cholesterol-lowering supplements is good. Even if it works (as most people claimed), it’s clear that it takes a couple of months to start working. In events where a patient is diagnosed with high cholesterol levels, it is not a good idea to treat it with supplements.  This is because one shouldn’t wait longer to lower their cholesterol. It will increase your chances of exposure to cardio-related risks. That’s why medications like Statins should be taken, especially for patients diagnosed with high cholesterol levels. Statins are pretty effective against LDL cholesterol and work faster.

Updated on: 20-Apr-2023


Kickstart Your Career

Get certified by completing the course

Get Started