Are there alternative or complementary cholesterol therapies?

Treating High Cholesterol With Alternative Treatments

If you are using or considering any alternative or complementary treatment for cholesterol, talk with your doctor and other healthcare providers. They can tell you how best to use these along with your conventional treatment.


There are two alternative or complementary therapies that may help control your cholesterol levels. They are:

  • soy
  • cholestin

There are some alternative treatments that need to be studied more. These include:

  • fenugreek
  • gugulipid
  • garlic

It's important to know that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not regulate dietary supplements such as fenugreek and garlic in the same way that it regulates medicines. Supplements do not have to go through the same tests for safety and effectiveness. Also, just because a substance is natural does not necessarily mean it is safe.

Does Soy Help Lower Cholesterol?

Results of several studies in animals and humans have shown that eating soy protein in place of animal protein may have some benefits. Soy may help lower total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels.

Sources of soy protein. Soy is found in soy milk, soy flour, tofu, and texturized soy protein. Soy protein is available as an extract, too. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows some soy products to carry the health claim, "Diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol that include 25 g of soy protein may reduce the risk of heart disease."

Foods can carry this claim only if:

  • They are low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol.
  • They contain at least 6.25 g of soy per serving.

How much you need. To show a significant effect on cholesterol, you would need to take in about 25 g of soy protein a day. Here is the amount of soy protein in common soy products:

  • 1 cup soy milk: 3 to 10 g
  • 4 ounces tofu: 5 to 13 g
  • ½ cup textured soy protein: 6 to 11 g
  • ½ cup soy flour: 20 g

So, you can see that you need to eat a lot of soy protein to receive any benefit. This may not be practical for most people.


Side Effects of Cholesterol Therapies

Potential side effects. Soy protein may cause some stomach pain and loose stools.

Does Cholestin Lower Cholesterol?


Cholestin has been used for centuries in China. Cholestin is made from fermented rice and red yeast. It contains the same type of compounds that are in the medicines that lower cholesterol called statins.

American studies have confirmed that cholestin may lower total cholesterol in the range of 11% to 32%. Results of one clinical study showed cholestin lowered LDL - known as bad cholesterol - by about 22%. It's available in capsule form. A typical dose is 1,200 mg twice a day.

How much you need. Cholestin is available in capsule form. A typical dose is 1,200 mg twice a day.

Potential side effects. Cholestin may cause liver problems, so your doctor should monitor your liver function if you take it. Also, cholestin may cause the same drug interactions as statin medications do.

Do Fenugreek and Gugulipid Lower Cholesterol?

Some studies have shown that fenugreek may help lower total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides. Gugulipid, also called guggul gum, may also have these effects. More studies are needed.

Does Garlic Help Lower Cholesterol?

Results of early studies on garlic supplements looked promising. But results of more recent studies have failed to prove these claims. So garlic is no longer considered a useful alternative treatment for cholesterol problems.