Cholesterol is a natural byproduct of the liver and a necessary component of good health. Normal cholesterol levels are necessary for the life and development of cells. It plays an important role in improving memory and learning, is a precursor to the production of vitamin D and synthesizes hormones and natural steroids – which control blood sugar, water balance and blood pressure. Cholesterol helps convert fat in the liver and is a powerful antioxidant. Cholesterol does not dissolve in the blood and must be transported into the body by lipoproteins. It is divided into two types: LDL-cholesterol and HDL-cholesterol.
LDL-cholesterol stands for low-density lipoprotein and is known as “bad cholesterol”. Lipoproteins contain high doses of cholesterol, but have a very thin protein shell. Thus, cholesterol easily enters the bloodstream and can be deposited on the walls of blood vessels. These deposits (so-called plaques) lead to narrowing of the vessels. That is why we should try to reduce the level of bad cholesterol in the long term by changing our eating habits.
HDL-cholesterol refers to high-density lipoprotein and is considered “good cholesterol”. This lipoprotein collects accumulated cholesterol from the walls of blood vessels and transports it to the liver.
Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood. The body uses them for energy. High triglyceride levels usually do not cause symptoms. And in combination with low levels of good cholesterol there is a high risk of cardiovascular disease. Accumulation of cholesterol, fat and protein on the walls of blood vessels leads to their narrowing. Arteries also lose elasticity. Therefore, the heart does not receive enough oxygen and is not fed well. There is a risk of a complete blockage of the vessels in the heart or brain.
A high level of bad cholesterol, a low level of good cholesterol and a high level of triglycerides represent a significant threat to health, sometimes even with dangerous consequences, such as a heart attack or stroke .
There are many alternative treatments proposed for lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels .
Red rice yeast
Yeast from Kineskok red rice helps balance normal cholesterol levels. Red rice yeast contains substances called monacolins, which occur naturally and when ingested, act to chemically inhibit cholesterol production. Eating moderate amounts of natural yeast from red rice as part of your overall diet helps maintain normal cholesterol levels. Extracting the active ingredient from rice and using it in dosage form enhances its effects, but can cause muscle and kidney damage.
Green tea contains various compounds that lower LDL cholesterol levels. A study conducted in Brazil, in which people consumed green tea extract in capsule form, led to a 4.5% reduction in LDL cholesterol levels.
Regular intake of nuts, especially walnuts and almonds, can help lower cholesterol levels.
Niacin (vitamin B3) helps lower LDL cholesterol levels by 10% and triglycerides by 25% and increase HDL cholesterol levels by 15-30%. Niacin is available in dosage form and as a dietary supplement.
Due to numerous side effects, niacin should only be used under medical supervision. Niacin can increase the effect of medicines for high blood pressure or cause nausea, indigestion, bloating, diarrhea, gout, worsen peptic ulcers or cause inflammation of the liver, and increase blood sugar.
The most common side effect of large doses of niacin is flushing or hot flashes, which are caused by dilation of blood vessels.
Artichoke leaf extract
Artichoke leaf extract helps lower bad cholesterol levels by limiting its synthesis in the body. In addition, the extract can accelerate the flow of cholesterol excretion from the liver, because it contains a compound called cinnarin, which increases the production of bile in the liver.
Soluble fiber intake
Reducing the absorption of cholesterol in the intestines is achieved by eating foods such as oats, legumes, plums, apples, berries, carrots, broccoli – all with a high content of soluble fiber. Soluble fiber binds to cholesterol and is thus excreted. In addition to food, soluble fiber can also be found as a dietary supplement.
Plant sterols and stanols
Plant sterols and stanols (such as beta-sitosterol and sitostanol) are natural substances found in some plants. Studies show that plant stanols and sterols can be helpful in lowering cholesterol. They are similar in structure to cholesterol and can help block the absorption of cholesterol from the intestines.
Studies have found that stanols significantly reduce total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, but have no significant effect on HDL cholesterol or triglycerides.
Stanols and sterols appear to enhance the effects of other cholesterol-lowering methods. In studies, patients taking cholesterol-lowering statins had an additional improvement in stanol/sterol cholesterol levels.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Eating foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids can also help reduce cardiovascular disease and lower triglyceride levels. Omega-3 fatty acids reduce the rate of triglyceride formation in the liver. Omega-3 fatty acids have an anti-inflammatory effect in the body, reduce the growth of plaque in the arteries and help thin the blood.
It is recommended to consume fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, herring, tuna, sardines, at least twice a week. Other dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids are flaxseeds and walnuts.
Many lifestyle changes made to improve the overall health of the body can drastically reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels:
Maintaining a healthy weight
Losing weight in the presence of excess weight will reduce the level of bad cholesterol and triglycerides by a significant percentage.
Reducing sugar intake
Individuals whose daily sugar intake is less than 10% of daily calories have the lowest triglyceride levels. It is recommended that only 5% of daily calories come from sugar, i.e. no more than 150 g (9 teaspoons) for men and 100 grams (6 tablespoons) for women per day.
Intake of foods rich in fiber
Instead of consuming sugar and other refined carbohydrates, consumption could be focused on foods rich in fiber, such as vegetables, fruits and whole grains.
Studies have found that consuming too much fructose (a type of sugar) leads to high triglyceride levels. Even fructose, which is naturally found in fruit, can raise triglycerides. Dried fruits, such as raisins and dates, have the most fructose, while peaches, melons, grapefruit, strawberries and bananas are relatively low in fructose.
Moderately low diet
Very low-fat diets are not as effective in lowering triglycerides as moderately low-fat diets. It is recommended that people with high triglyceride levels consume about 25-35% of their daily calories from fat.
Limitation of saturated and trans fats
Limit the intake of saturated fats contained in red meat, poultry fat, butter, cheese, milk and coconut and palm oil, and trans fats found in products such as biscuits, cakes, margarine, cakes, hamburgers. It is recommended to replace these fats with healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Although unsaturated fats are better in terms of cholesterol and triglycerides, they are high in calories. Fatty fish, such as salmon, herring, sardines, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and are also useful for maintaining normal cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Regular physical activity
For high triglyceride levels, at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity most days of the week is recommended to lower triglyceride levels. Exercise lowers cholesterol levels.
Experts say that regular exercise increases enzyme activity. Thus, triglycerides are released from lipoproteins in the blood, are eliminated from the body faster and do not accumulate.
Exercise is also an important part of weight control.
Some studies have found a link between even small amounts of alcohol and moderate increases in triglycerides, although other studies have not found a similar association. It is recommended that people with very high triglyceride levels avoid alcohol completely.
Quitting smoking can improve HDL cholesterol levels. In addition, quitting smoking has a number of other benefits, such as reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and lung problems.