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Can I Use Fiber Supplements to Lower My Cholesterol?

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Updated January 19, 2009

Question: Can I Use Fiber Supplements to Lower My Cholesterol?
Answer: Foods containing soluble fiber are very useful in lowering your “bad” cholesterol (LDL), but can fiber supplements do the same thing?

Soluble fiber can be found in a variety of foods, including whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables. But when you are living a busy lifestyle, and opt for quick snacks instead of whole grains and veggies, taking a fiber supplement might be a tempting thought.

You’ve probably seen a lot of these fiber supplements in the store already. These products are under different names and contain different types of soluble fiber. The following ingredients are forms of soluble fiber:

  • psyllium (Konsyl, Metamucil, Fiberall)
  • pectin (various natural products)
  • polycarbophil (Fibercon)
  • methylcellulose (Citrucel)
Just because you are taking the recommended amount of a fiber supplement, it shouldn’t exclude you from following a healthy, balanced diet. In fact, it has been shown that fiber supplements are not as helpful to you if you are not already following a low-fat diet. Additionally, fiber supplements do not contain the vitamins and other nutrients that whole grains, fruits, and vegetables can provide.

If you decide that a fiber supplement is right for you, remember that the recommended intake by the National Cholesterol Education Program is between 10 and 25 grams of soluble fiber content. Be sure to drink plenty of water so that you avoid constipation.

Sources:

Rolfes SR, Whitney E. Understanding Nutrition, 3rd ed 2005.

Brown L, Rosner B, Willett WW, et al. Cholesterol-lowering effects of dietary fiber: a meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr 1999; 69:30-42.

Third Report of the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults (PDF), July 2004, The National Institutes of Heath: The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

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