Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs do not treat disease. They do lower cholesterol levels—but, high cholesterol is not a disease per se. It’s simply one of many risk factors for heart disease. That’s why, when patients taking statins come to the Whitaker Wellness Institute, our first order of business is to get them off those medications and started on a multipronged program that lowers cholesterol levels, reduces risk of heart disease, and improves multiple aspects of health.
In place of drugs, we prescribe several nutritional supplements that help reduce cholesterol levels naturally, including plant sterols, supplemental fiber (flaxseed is my favorite), and, perhaps most important, niacin. Unlike statins, niacin not only lowers LDL cholesterol but also elevates HDL, a feat no drug is able to accomplish. In fact, a Pfizer drug aimed at increasing HDL was scrapped after it was found to worsen heart problems and increase risk of death. But the niacin story gets even better. Results from a clinical trial published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine proved that this supplement actually reverses blockages in the carotid arteries!
For its broad cardiovascular benefits, we also recommend high doses of fish oil. EPA and DHA, fish oil’s primary omega-3 fatty acids, reduce inflammation, lower blood lipids (especially triglycerides), improve blood viscosity, normalize heart rhythms, and protect against sudden cardiac death. Name one drug that can do even a fraction of that!
Additionally, we recommend a high-potency multivitamin and mineral supplement. Cardiovascular disease risk factors go far beyond LDL cholesterol and inflammation. B-complex vitamins lower levels of homocysteine, a toxic protein that harms the arteries. Vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, selenium, and other antioxidants protect against free-radical damage. And magnesium and other minerals help keep blood pressure in check and enhance arterial health.
Finally, don’t forget CoQ10 and vitamin D. CoQ10 energizes the heart muscle, lowers blood pressure, and protects against heart failure. And vitamin D deficiencies, which are rampant in the US, are linked with a dramatically increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
The recommended daily doses of these supplements are as follows: ¼ cup freshly ground flaxseed, plant sterols 1,500–2,000 mg, niacin 500–2,000 mg (the regular form, not niacinamide or no-flush niacin; build up gradually and take at bedtime to ameliorate flushing), fish oil 2–8 g, CoQ10 200–600 mg, and vitamin D 2,000–5,000 IU. A therapeutic multi should contain above-RDA levels of folic acid and other B vitamins, antioxidants, and magnesium.