High cholesterol levels can put a person at risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular issues.
Eating a healthy diet is vital for heart health.
But fiber supplements and probiotics can also help to reduce cholesterol levels, a dietitian said.
A dietitian shared the two supplements she recommends for lowering cholesterol levels and improving heart health.
When thinking about supplements for heart health, cholesterol is typically the target, Lauren Ball, a dietitian and professor of community health and wellbeing at the University of Queensland, Australia, told Business Insider.
That is because high cholesterol can lead to cardiovascular problems such as heart attacks, strokes and mini strokes, narrow arteries, and peripheral arterial disease, which is when a build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries restricts blood supply to the legs.
A healthy diet should be the first port of call for lowering cholesterol, and those looking to improve their heart health might want to speak to a dietitian for individual support, Ball said.
But eating more fruits and vegetables is a good place to start, because they are a good source of fiber, which is known to reduce LDL, or "bad," cholesterol, she said. The FDA recommends people get a minimum of 28g of fiber per day, and whole grains, oats, and beans are also good sources.
Research has also shown that supplements can significantly lower cholesterol levels. Ball shared the two supplements she would recommend for heart health.
Some cholesterol is excreted or removed in feces, Ball said, and fiber increases the bulk of stools. So the more fiber we eat, the more cholesterol is excreted, she said.
Supplements can be an easy way to boost fiber intake, Ball said. There are different types, but the most common are natural soluble fibers such as inulin or psyllium husk, she said. They usually come in either capsules or a kind of powder that you can sprinkle on your food. Natural insoluble fibers such as flaxseeds also increase the size of stools, she said.
One meta-analysis of eight clinical trials published in 2000 found that taking 10g psyllium husk daily appeared to lower total cholesterol levels by 4% and LDL cholesterol levels by 7%.
But while fiber is a fairly safe and inexpensive supplement, it can sometimes come with side effects such as tummy upset or constipation, particularly if you are not drinking enough water, she said. Drinking more water can help.
Probiotics, which contain the good bacteria that live in our guts, have also been found to reduce cholesterol levels, Ball said. Similarly to fiber supplements, they are thought to work by improving the body's ability to pass stools.
They change the environment of the gut microbiome and enable the large intestine to incorporate more cholesterol into feces, she said.
Probiotics tend to be more expensive than fiber supplements, but they may also be linked to other health benefits such as smoother digestion. Some ongoing research suggests that probiotics might also be beneficial for mental health. You are also less likely to experience side effects such as constipation from probiotics than from fiber supplements, she said.
Prioritize healthy eating and don't spend too much money on supplements
Ball said that both of these supplements are "fairly safe," but it's important to be aware that the supplement space is largely unregulated.
"The likelihood of getting ripped off is moderate to high for supplements in general. What I would stay away from would be anything that's exorbitant in cost," she said.
A food-first approach is always going to be more economical and more likely to have an impact as well, she said.
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