Cholesterol has received a great deal of press, and medical experts agree that high blood cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease. But cholesterol is not an enemy. The body needs cholesterol and manufactures its own supply. Cholesterol is our friend, something the body requires, in the right places and amounts. Abnormally high levels of cholesterol in the blood can lead to coronary heart disease and other serious conditions, due to build-up of cholesterol-filled plaque in the arteries. But cholesterol by itself is not the problem. Research has shown that abnormalities in the way cholesterol is transported in the blood are the culprits in setting the stage for arteries to become damaged and clogged with plaque, this is the condition known as "atherosclerosis."
Psyllium is rich in dietary fiber, a common and effective treatment for constipation. While psyllium has traditionally been used as a laxative, recent research suggests that it may have applications in the treatment of high cholesterol, irritable bowel syndrome and colon inflammation. According to the Food and Drug Administration, psyllium may also help lower the risk of heart disease. Studies suggest that psyllium may help control cholesterol levels. Its high levels of soluble fiber may reduce the absorption of cholesterol from the bloodstream while stimulating the liver to produce cholesterol-lowering bile acids. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved psyllium to reduce cardiovascular disease risk with recent studies confirming that risk reduction.
A recent study published in the journal Phytomedicine investigated whether adverse gastrointestinal (GI) effects limit the usability of psyllium to lower cholesterol. Sixty-two participants with documented hypercholesterolemia and complaints of constipation were involved in the study. They were treated with 3.5 grams of psyllium husk preparation administered three times daily for three weeks and monitored at weekly intervals. Of the sixty-two initial participants, fifty-four completed the study protocol. Only four participants discontinued the study due to adverse gastrointestinal effects, although during the first week most people in the study reported some GI symptoms. Total cholesterol and low density lipoprotein (LDL) levels were significantly decreased after three weeks of treatment. Participant’s high density lipoprotein (HDL) and triglycerides remained unchanged after the treatment period. Adverse gastrointestinal effects decreased for most patients through the course of the study. With the results of the study, the researchers stated that psyllium may be a therapeutic option for patients with mild to moderately elevated cholesterol levels.1
1 Uehleke B, Ortiz M, Strange R. Cholesterol reduction using psyllium husks – do gastrointestinal adverse effects limit compliance? Results of a specific observational study. Phytomedicine. Mar2008;15(3):153-9.