Supplements for Cholesterol: What Works?

Plenty of dietary supplements on the market claim to lower your cholesterol. These claims aren't always backed up by research, however. Though not always perfect, scientific studies are the best way to determine if an alternative remedy really works. We break down what the research does—and doesn’t—say about the benefits of the most popular supplements for lowering cholesterol.


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What it is: A B vitamin (also known as nictotinic acid) that occurs naturally in meat, fish, and dairy.

The evidence: Clinical trials dating back to the 1970s have shown that niacin can lower LDL and triglycerides. But its most notable effect is on HDL, which it can raise by up to 35%. Niacin only has this effect at high doses of 2 grams to 3 grams a day, however, and is typically administered as a prescription drug (such as Niaspan). Niacin is also available as an over-the-counter supplement in doses of 500 milligrams or more, but taking large amounts of niacin can cause potentially serious side effects.

The bottom line: Niacin boosts HDL, but niacin supplements should not be taken in lieu of a prescription.

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