Major programs are being mounted to encourage people to reduce their cholesterol levels. This is often initiated and supported by national medical associations and heart foundations. Efforts are being directed toward the known causes of elevated cholesterol, such as the intake of saturated fats and foods rich in cholesterol.
But emphasis is also being laid on natural products. The value of oat bran is well documented as a natural, drug-free way of bringing down high levels. It is often given in conjunction with niacin (vitamin B 3 ), advocated in large doses.
Many claim to have levels reduced from readings in excess of 10 mmol/dL to normal figures using this method alone. Oat bran is a “soluble fibre” that binds with cholesterol in the bowel system (where it collects via the bile salts), prevents its re-absorption, and is eliminated from the system. Wheat bran is not a soluble fibre and is not nearly as efficient. If you decide to use this, make certain you purchase a well-known “brand name,” for a lot of unlabelled, inferior-quality material is on sale in some shops.
Another naturally occurring fibre that comes from the pod of the psyllium plant has been shown to be effective in lowering cholesterol levels. It is available commercially from health food stores in powdered and flavoured form as Metamucil.
Taking two to four teaspoons daily in water provides a pleasant, refreshing drink, improves bowel regularity, but also reduces cholesterol. Any naturally occurring fibre may also be of value. Legumes, vegetables and many fruits are fibre-rich.
Another interesting twist is the apparent value of fish oil. This comes in capsule form, and some people claim daily intake is helpful. This is based on the observation that Greenland Eskimos rarely suffer from heart disease, and their diet is essentially fish. Fish oil is different from animal fat and appears to exert a cardioprotective effect on the system. Other reports claim that a fish meal two to three times per week will also offer protection and lower elevated cholesterol (and probably triglyceride) levels. Once more, these natural measures may be effective, eliminating the need for drug intervention.
Clofibrate (Atromid S), cholestyramine (Ouestran) and probucil (Lurseile) have been the main forms of medication for elevated cholesterol. Many newer products are now regularly used in mainstream prescribing, including simvastatin (Zocor, Lipex), pravastatin (Pravachol) and colestipol (Colestid). Gemfibrozil (Lopid) is successful, particularly in reducing elevated triglycerides. but helps with cholesterol too. More drugs will be developed, with claims for greater efficacy. Special guidelines often govern prescribing by doctors.
Summing up, a person will do well to reduce the daily intake of foods containing saturated animal fats, at the same time increasing soluble fibre and fish-oil intake. The less cholesterol that is eaten daily, the better. A greater reduction in refined carbohydrates is also wise. This is even more important if a test shows an elevation of the blood-fat levels.