#301 Lower Your Cholesterol

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"I drive way too fast to worry about cholesterol."

Stephen Wright

10 Ways to Lower Your Cholesterol Without Medication

By Steve Edwards

Big Pharma took another hit last month when some studies were released showing that two anticholesterol drugs, Zetia and Vytorin, were ineffective in lowering the risk of heart disease. These drugs did approximately 5 billion dollars in business last year, mainly because they are safer than other more proven anticholesterol meds, like Lipitor and Crestor. Without a definitively safe and effective cholesterol-reducing drug on the market, look for the natural, old-school methods to come back into fashion. We'll take a look at how to reduce your cholesterol levels naturally.


Before we get into the solutions, however, let's have a closer look at the problem. Our society has become addicted to drugs, and not just recreational ones. We look for drugs to aid us in just about any activity we do regularly, from sleeping, to sex, to sports, and most things in between. In our mad rush for enhanced performance, results, and the bottom line, we've become lazy and forgotten the fundamentals—the basic law of nature that rewards hard work. Drugs are highly beneficial for many medical conditions but they don't—or can't—offset poor lifestyle choices. If we refocus as a whole, then we'd be far less dependent on artificial solutions, but that's not how it's playing out. In this latest example from Big Pharma, the tail is clearly wagging the dog.

VytorinIn this case, the studies began trickling out in 2006 but weren't made available to the public until last month. Clearly, some type of hush order had been instigated. And even now, with the information out, sales aren't expected to decline that much—a sign that marketing influence can offset scientific evidence. "I don't know why this would have any impact on mainstream use," stated Schering-Plough (makers of Vytorin) Chief Executive Fred Hassan, inferring that a drug's efficacy didn't matter to sales. After all, the studies didn't show that the drugs weren't safe, just ineffective. Is this an assumption that we now only take drugs because they're safe? Further nailing the point home was ABC News Medical Editor Dr. Timothy Johnson, who reported in detail how Vytorin didn't work and then added, "Don't stop taking it. It's not dangerous."

It seems like, in the medical marketing world, your only choices seem to be between the safe and ineffective drug and the effective but dangerous one. "People need to turn back to statins," reported Yale University cardiologist Dr. Harlan Krumholz, referring to Lipitor, Crestor, and other widely used brands. "We know that statins are good drugs. We know that they reduce risks." Of course, there's a downside to these, too, which you've probably noticed if you've caught the minute-long disclaimer that runs longer than the advertising segment of statin ads.

Beyond those less-deadly side effects, statins are now linked to—still theoretically—ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. Some of this was discussed in Dr. Duane Graveline's books, Statin Drugs: Side Effects and the Misguided War on Cholesterol and Lipitor,Thief of Memory, but a more direct link to ALS was cited in a study released in the June 2007 edition of Drug Safety. While the paper is cautious in tone, warning readers that the authors do "not do more than raise the signal for further work and analysis" of a possible connection between ALS or what they're calling an "ALS-like syndrome" and the use of statin medications, such as atorvastatin (Lipitor), lovastatin (Mevacor), simvastatin (Zocor), and others, it still bears merit. This led to a front-page story in the July 3 edition of the Wall Street Journal.

ZetiaRegardless of the final outcome, some risk may be associated, and not all doctors are so quick to jump on the bandwagon. "It will be 2012—ten years after the drug was introduced—before we know the answer," said Dr. Steven Nissen, a Cleveland Clinic cardiologist. The quote was in reference to Zetia but could have been about any drug that hasn't been studied long-term.

These latest situations have renewed debate about the ways drugs are tested and approved in the U.S. and whether they're being released to market too soon. For example, the FDA allows "surrogate endpoints" for drug approval. Instead of relying on ultimate outcomes—a reduction in heart attacks or strokes, for instance, or a decrease in deaths—many studies measure a drug's effectiveness by using interim markers, such as decreasing blood pressure levels or lowering LDL cholesterol. The reason, according to Dr. Robert Temple, director of the agency's off-of-medical policy, ". . . waiting for the results of large-scale outcome trials would cost too much and take too long, possibly delaying life-saving advances for millions of people."

But the difference could also be money, as the longer it takes a drug to get to market, the less its profit upside. In an article in Forbes, Matthew Herper states that "drugmakers are in a hurry to make as much money as they can off their medicines before patents expire. The patent clock starts ticking when a molecule is made in the lab or a new use for it is discovered. It doesn't stop ticking while a drugmaker does a five-year study to compare the drug, in safety and efficacy, with the alternatives. 'Patents don't last forever,' says Paul Thompson, chief of cardiology for Hartford Hospital and a consultant to drugmakers. 'If prescriptions slow, that's revenue you'll never recapture.'"

Dr. Nortin M. Hadler, a professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina, sums up the current quagmire of the drug business when he said to MSNBC, "In our zeal to do modern medicine . . . we've managed to lose our way. We've forgotten to ask: 'Does this matter to the patient?'"

One thing we know that works is lifestyle change. Some of the risk of developing heart disease is inherited but, no matter what hand you're dealt, you can fight it naturally in a highly effective manner. Here are 10 ways to lower your cholesterol levels and your risk of heart disease, naturally.

  1. Turbo Jam® WorkoutExercise. Once again, we're back to the very basics (isn't this our solution to everything?). But, seriously, the human body was built to move. If you don't move, it falls apart or, in this case, a more appropriate analogy might be that you gum up the works. Frequent exercise fights the buildup of cholesterol in the blood and plaque on the arteries. Exercising enough can even, to some degree, offset a bad diet. But daily exercise should be considered your main daily essential if you have high cholesterol, or even if you don't want to have it. From Turbo Jam® to P90X®, we have exercise programs to accommodate every need.

  2. Eat enough fiber. Specifically, you want soluble fiber—a great source is legumes (beans, lentils, etc.)—which helps remove bad cholesterol from your system.

  3. Core Omega-3™Eat fatty fish. Our diets are far too low in DHA and EPA, two fatty acids found in most fish. Among other benefits, these help fight the buildup of cholesterol in your arteries. A good fish oil supplement can be an easier and safer alternative since Mercury contamination is a possibility when eating too much fish.

  4. Eat less meat—or at least less meat fat. It's loaded with cholesterol. Our American meat-laden diet is probably the single biggest dietary cause of increased heart disease risk.

  5. Eat less dairy—or at least less fat from dairy. You need a lot of fat in your diet but almost none of this should come from meat and dairy sources as they're loaded with cholesterol and saturated fat.

  6. Switch to olive oil instead of your regular saturated fat oil. Olive oil can help you lower LDL "bad" cholesterol levels without reducing HDL "good" cholesterol levels.

  7. BroccoliEat broccoli. And cauliflower, cabbage, and other stuff that looks like it came out of a mini Tolkien forest. These vegetables not only have a lot of fiber; they're loaded with indoles, compounds useful in fighting high cholesterol.

  8. Eat plant sterols. The National Cholesterol Education Program states that consuming 2 grams of plant sterols per day, in conjunction with a low saturated fat diet, may reduce LDL cholesterol by 5 to 15 percent. But where do you find them? Good question. Some margarine is now made with plant sterols, but you've got to do some research because some older margarine is terrible. Chances are the good ones will tell you on the label. Natural sources include avocados and sunflower seeds.

  9. SpicesSpice up your diet. Add cinnamon, chili peppers, evening primrose, and/or garlic to your dishes, as these seem to help lower cholesterol naturally.

  10. Stop smoking. Duh! Hmm, okay, this one's too obvious. How about adding some oat bran to your diet? Yeah, that's better—something maybe you didn't already know. Oat bran is another one of those foods that not only have numerous nutritional benefits but also show up on everyone's list of cholesterol-lowering ingredients.

IR Edwards, K. Star, and A. Kiuru. "Statins, neuromuscular degenerative disease and an amyotrophic lateral sclerosis-like syndrome: an analysis of individual case safety reports from vigibase." Drug Safety 2007; 30 (6) 515-25.

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"Nutrition 911, Part VII: The Best Food on the Planet"
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If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, just email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

Steve EdwardsCheck out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive Steve Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope.

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3 Cholesterol-Busting Superfoods

By Joe Wilkes

OnionOnions, garlic, and leeks—the bane of the romantic evening, but the balm for so much else. These aromatic and pungent stars of the vegetable world are all members of the allium family and have myriad health benefits, both real and purported, not the least of which is all those germs you'll avoid when nobody will kiss you after you've eaten them. So, let's take a moment to salute these beautiful, bountiful bulbs that are delicious and nutritious, with smells that are slightly vicious.


The onion (Allium cepa) has been a culinary staple for thousands of years. Many civilizations even worshipped onions as symbols of eternity, because of their concentric rings. Ancient Greek Olympic athletes consumed onions before exercising, as it was believed that they cleansed the blood. They were also taken along on long sea voyages by many cultures—their high levels of vitamin C helped prevent scurvy. Onions have also been applied topically as home remedies to relieve congestion, fever, gout, and arthritis, as well as to speed the healing of scars and burns.


In modern times, many studies have turned up evidence that there are some genuine health benefits to eating onions. Onions can help lower levels of LDL cholesterol, the "bad" cholesterol that is responsible for clogging arteries, and they're also believed to lower blood pressure. Onions' antibacterial properties can reportedly help kill salmonella and E. coli. Other beneficial properties include reducing clotting, which can aid the circulatory system; anti-inflammatory properties that can help alleviate cough and cold symptoms; and onion extracts are even used in some asthma medications to provide bronchial relief. They are loaded with vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. And they are among the cheapest vegetables available, which is healthy for your pocketbook.

The onion is an extremely versatile vegetable; it can be sharp and tangy when raw, or sweet when cooked. Another great thing about onions is that almost none of their nutritional value is lost when cooked. One medium onion only has 44 calories, no fat, and 2 grams of fiber. A half cup of chopped green onions only has 28 calories, no fat, and 4 grams of fiber. So for those of us keeping an eye on our diets, onions are a great way to get a lot of flavor for very few calories.

Cooking tip: Onions contain all kinds of different sulfur compounds. When the vapor from the sulfur hits your eyes, sulfuric acid is created, which is why onions can make you cry. The best way to avoid tears is to rinse the onions after you cut off the ends. The milkier the juice oozing from the onion, the stronger the acid. By rinsing this off, you'll have fewer tears, and the onion will be less bitter in the recipe. Also, make sure you use a very sharp knife. This will help ensure that the juice stays in the onion instead of on your cutting board, and ultimately in your eyes. Less juice, less vapor, less crying.


GarlicGarlic (Allium sativum) is a spicy relative of the onion. Unlike the onion, which is a discrete bulb, a head of garlic is a clump of bulbs, each clove an individual bulb. It has also been harvested for thousands of years for its flavor and is also one of the earliest known plants to be cultivated for medicinal reasons. It was thought by ancient cultures to be a great purifier, i.e., anything that smelled that bad had to kill anything bad in your body. And garlic is a frequent component in folk remedies throughout the ages, purported to cure impotence, madness, and tuberculosis. And anecdotal evidence that it wards off vampires and werewolves is very persuasive.

As with onions, garlic contains a high number of sulfur compounds, and when a clove is broken or chopped, the chemical reactions create a very pungent smell. Allicin, a sulfur compound found in garlic, is both an antibiotic and an antifungal compound. It is also what gives garlic its hot, spicy flavor. It and other sulfur compounds have been credited by researchers with numerous health benefits, including lowering LDL cholesterol levels and increasing HDL (good) cholesterol levels; lessening atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries; reducing blood clotting; stabilizing blood sugar levels; and possible anticancer benefits. Studies have even shown that babies tend to breast-feed better when their mothers eat garlic, which shows up in their milk. And a clove of garlic only has 4 calories and no fat, so you can season your food to your heart's content.

Cooking tip: To get rid of garlic breath, chew some parsley. To get rid of the smell on your hands, wet your hands and rub them against the blade of a clean stainless steel knife (but don't cut yourself!). To get rid of the odor in your plasticware, freeze the offending item overnight. When you take it out of the freezer, the smell should be gone!


LeeksLeeks (Allium ampeloprasum) are also members of the onion family. Usually, they are eaten for their white and light-green base, and some are cultivated for their bulbs, which are marketed as "elephant garlic." Leeks have enjoyed a long history, especially in Europe. In Wales, the leek is the national emblem, a symbol of courage and independence. They require much more care in their cultivation, as they are a biennial plant, like asparagus; therefore, they are a little more expensive than their bulbous cousins.

Leeks recently received some good ink in Mireille Guiliano's French Women Don't Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure. In the book, she reveals her recipe for Magical Leek Soup, a simple leek broth, which she would eat on a two-day fast to jump-start her diet. (We prefer our own 2-Day Fast Formula®). Their high manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin C, folate, and iron contents make leeks an excellent food for helping stabilize blood sugar, probably the reason Ms. Guiliano's fasts are successful. (For more about the French diet, read Monica Ciociola's "How French Women Stay Slim [Without Starving]." See Related Articles below.) Also, like garlic and onions, leeks are good at raising HDL (good) cholesterol levels while lowering LDL (bad) levels. There has also been some evidence that they lower blood pressure. At 38 calories per leek, with no fat, this is another great light vegetable.

Cooking tip: Because leeks must grow through two seasons before they are harvested, there is a fair amount of dirt, grit, and sand hidden in their folds. Before chopping your leeks, soak them in a sink full of cold water, so that some of the sand and grit will float out. Then chop from the white to the green, and rinse again, as needed.

Related Articles
"How French Women Stay Slim (Without Starving)"
"5 Tips for Healthier Eating"
"5 Ways to Stay Young"

Joe WilkesIf you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, just email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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Test Your Cholesterol-Lowering Food IQ!

By Joe Wilkes
  1. ApplesWhat is notable about the "Flower of Kent" variety of apple? This green apple is believed to have been the apple that struck Sir Isaac Newton on the head, leading him to develop his theories of gravity. Apples are great cholesterol fighters as the pectin they contain is a soluble fiber, which helps purge cholesterol from the system; and they also contain bioflavonoids, which are believed to inhibit the accumulation of LDL "bad" cholesterol in the blood.

  2. Where does the phrase "sow your wild oats" come from? Sowing wild oats is often used to describe the reckless behavior of young people. Farmers will know that wild oats are useless weeds, as opposed to the domesticated cereal oats, which are processed into oatmeal and other foods. So sowing wild oats would be like expending effort for no result. Edible oats are another good source of cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber. Eating 5 to 10 grams of fiber a day (about 2 to 3 cups of oatmeal) can reduce LDL "bad" cholesterol by as much as 5 percent.

  3. SalmonWhat is the largest variety of salmon? The largest salmon is the Chinook, aka king salmon. Chinooks can weigh over 100 pounds. Other species include Atlantic, Cherry, Chum, Coho, Pink, and Sockeye. Salmon, among other fatty fish, contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which contain tremendous heart benefits, including lowering unhealthy triglyceride levels. Don't like fish? The healthy fish oils are also available as supplements.

  4. What was the first food to receive FDA approval as a "health food"? Walnut producers were given permission by the FDA to include the following claim on their packaging in 2004: "Supportive but not conclusive research shows that eating 1.5 ounces per day, as part of a low saturated fat and low-cholesterol diet, and not resulting in increased caloric intake, may reduce the risk of heart disease." Rich in omega-3 fatty acids and soluble fiber, one-third cup of walnuts a day can lead to a 12-percent decrease in LDL "bad" cholesterol.

  5. Soy SauceCan soy sauce lower cholesterol levels? No. It is soy protein that is largely responsible for lowering cholesterol levels. Good sources include tofu, soymilk, TVP (textured vegetable protein), and tempeh. Soy sauce contains only trace amounts of protein and is high in sodium; so not only does it not lower your cholesterol, it can raise your blood pressure.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, just email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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