Food and Nutrition

ConsumerLab Reviews Cholesterol Drugs: Many Pass Testing, 1 Fails

| by ConsumerLab

White Plains, New York — Certain dietary supplements can help reduce elevated cholesterol levels.  A new report from ConsumerLab.com reviews the evidence behind each of the popular cholesterol-lowering ingredients and provides test results for twelve supplement brands. 

ConsumerLab.com testing focused on supplements containing plant sterols or policosanol and showed most to contain the listed amount of ingredient and to meet other quality standards.  However, one product failed to break apart in the disintegration test, suggesting that its sterols would not be properly released and used by the body.

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Elevated cholesterol is a key risk factor for heart disease.  According to the American Heart Association, 102.2 million Americans age 20 and older have elevated blood cholesterol levels.  Lifestyle changes such as improving diet, losing weight and increasing exercise are often effective at improving cholesterol levels. Various supplement ingredients may be helpful as well, lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad cholesterol"), raising high-density lipoprotein (HDL or "good cholesterol"), and improving the LDL/HDL ratio. Some supplements may also reduce triglycerides.

Among the supplement ingredients proven to work are plant sterols, also known as phytosterols, which bind cholesterol in the gut.  The FDA permits plant sterol-containing products to claim that they help reduce the risk of heart disease when used with a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol.  This claim can only be made if the product provides a minimum of 800 mg of free sterols or 1,300 mg of sterol esters divided into at least two servings per day taken with meals.  ConsumerLab.com identified seven brands of plant sterol-containing supplements that met this requirement.  However, an eighth product would not break apart to release its ingredients within the allowed 30 minutes.  Even when tested for six hours, the product still did not fully disintegrate. 

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Policosanol is another supplement ingredient touted to lower cholesterol, although the clinical evidence is mixed.  Tests by ConsumerLab.com identified four policosanol-containing supplements that contained the claimed amount of the policosanol and met other quality standards. 

The new report includes information about other ingredients that may improve cholesterol and/or triglyceride levels.  Several of these have been the subject of separate test reports by ConsumerLab.com including fish oil/omega-3 fatty acids, garlic, niacin, red yeast rice, and soy protein.  Evidence is also reviewed for guggulsterone, pantethine, and Sytrinol.

The Product Review of Cholesterol-Lowering Supplements (Plant Sterols and Policosanol) provides test results for twelve products.  Seven were selected by ConsumerLab.com and five others are included in the reports for having passed the same evaluation through ConsumerLab.com's Voluntary Certification Program. Supplements covered in the report are Centrum Cardio, CholestaPro, Nature Made CholestOff, and TwinLab Cholesterol Success as well as supplements from Enzymatic Therapy, Nature’s Code, Nature’s Life, NSI, Solgar, Swanson, Vitamin Shoppe, and Windmill Rx. The report provides evaluations, ingredient comparisons, and expert tips on buying and using these and other cholesterol-lowering supplements.

ConsumerLab.com is a leading provider of consumer information and independent evaluations of products that affect health and nutrition.  Reviews of other popular types of supplements are available from www.consumerlab.com.  Subscription to ConsumerLab.com is available online.  The company is privately held and based in Westchester, New York.  It has no ownership from, or interest in, companies that manufacture, distribute, or sell consumer products.