You’ve heard the ads: “all-natural remedy!” or “miracle cure!” But when it comes to your heart health, do supplements live up to the hype?
Sometimes. But you have to be a savvy consumer to get the real story and that can be difficult because supplements aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration the way prescription and over-the-counter drugs are.
“What’s more,” says Christopher Heatherton, DO, a family medicine specialist at Bingham Memorial Family Medicine, “most supplements aren’t backed by enough research.”
Dr. Heatherton recommends checking with your doctor to make sure a supplement is safe for you and asking your pharmacist for help choosing brands. Here is what’s known about some of the most common heart-healthy supplements.
There are some claims that garlic can lower blood pressure and cholesterol, but there is not much research to back that up. “I also haven’t seen any problems with people taking it, other than keeping loved ones away,” Dr. Heatherton says.
“Of all the supplements on the market, fish oil probably has the largest body of research to support heart-healthy claims that it lowers cholesterol and triglycerides (two types of fat in the blood) and blood pressure levels,” Dr. Heatherton says. In fact, the FDA has approved a prescription fish oil supplement. But you’ll get the same benefits—particularly the antioxidant power of omega-3 fatty acids—from a quality over-the-counter brand as you would from the prescription version.
The tea touted as possibly lowering LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides is green tea leaves, not the green tea that’s processed into tea bags. The leaves
can be brewed into tea or purchased in capsule form. But those claims are mostly anecdotal, Dr. Heatherton says. Plus, green tea leaves can interfere with blood thinners.
“There is good evidence that niacin (vitamin B3) can decrease LDL cholesterol and raise HDL (‘good’) cholesterol,” Dr. Heatherton says. “Also, new research shows that having low levels of vitamin D can increase your risk of heart attack, stroke and other heart problems, so a supplement might be something to ask your doctor about.”
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Bingham Memorial Family Medicine has a growing number of Family Medicine Specialists throughout eastern Idaho. We have offices in Idaho Falls, Shelley, Blackfoot, and Pocatello. To schedule an appointment, please call: (208) 785-4100 or click here.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.