Cholesterol is not intrinsically harmful, in fact, your body needs it to build healthy cells. High levels of cholesterol are harmful, however, because it causes fatty deposits to develop in your blood vessels. This increases your risk of heart disease, a major cause of death in the UK and worldwide. Fortunately taking either of these three supplements could help to lower your levels and reduce risk of any serious health consequences.
Stanols and sterols are plant chemicals that have a similar structure to cholesterol.
They are absorbed from the intestines into the blood stream and block some cholesterol from being absorbed, in turn lowering the cholesterol in your blood.
Plant stanols and sterols can be found in foods including vegetable oils, nuts and seeds, but not in high enough quantities to lower cholesterol levels.
Because it is not possible to get enough plant stanols and sterols from an everyday diet, specialist ranges of dairy foods such as margarines and yoghurt drinks have been fortified with them to help lower cholesterol levels.
Beta-glucan is a type of fibre that forms a gel which binds to cholesterol in the intestines. This helps limit the amount of cholesterol that is absorbed from the gut into the blood.
“Beta-glucans help to lower cholesterol levels by slowing food transit in the intestine, so the body takes longer to digest food. This means that cholesterol isn’t absorbed as quickly,” said Patel.
Beta-glucan can be found in foods such as oats and barley, but it can also be taken as a supplement.
“Lifestyle and dietary changes should always be the first step in the management of high blood cholesterol,” said Benecol nutritionist Sarah Franciosi.