Huge topic. I can write a book on this but best not yet! Two more years of med school yet and by then I'll be even more versed in how to lower cholesterol naturally.

First: What is cholesterol?
According to Stedman's Medical Dictionary, cholesterol is "the most abundant steroid in animal tissues, especially in bile and gall stones, and present in food, especially rich in animal fats, circulates in plasma complexed to proteins of various densities and plays an important role in the pathogenesis of atheroma formation in arteries."

What is pathogenesis of atheroma? It is the beginning stage of atherosclerosis which is the building of lipid [cholesterol] plaques within the structure of arteries. These plaques narrow the vessel wall thereby limiting the flow of blood. Limiting the flow of blood causes turbulence which causes further deposition of plaque. The slowed speed of blood through the arteries helps lay down more plaque as well.

Ways to lower cholesterol naturally:

  1. Exercise: damn. How many times do you have to hear it - everyone says it. Because it works better than any drug out there. Why does it work? Simple biochemistry and physiology. Exercise requires energy. Energy comes from sugars, fats and proteins. When the sugars and proteins are burned, fats must be converted into useable forms of energy. The liver steps up by making good cholesterol, HDL. HDL goes around and picks up bad cholesterol, LDL. It converts this into useable energy. So, by exercising, your energy requirements increase thereby lowering cholesterol naturally. Exercise 30 minutes a day as often as you can in a week. Try one day a week and build up. You'll become addicted to it. Better that than statins.
  2. Eat soluble fiber: Where can you find that? In beans and whole grains. The FDA's page on fiber is not too shabby. Fruits and vegetables contain insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber actually binds to cholesterol removing it from your body. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to your stools making you more regular - which is extremely vital as well.
  3. Limit animal fat foods: damn again. Even Stedman's Medical Dictionary said cholesterol is the most abundant steroid in animal tissues. They didn't say plant tissues. I'm not saying avoid it completely. Just keep an eye on it - don't chomp down endless roast beef sandwhiches with mayo and four kinds of cheese.
  4. Inositol: This is time-released niacin in the no-flush form. Niacin is a main player in cellular metabolism. If one is low in niacin, then the energy reactions do not go forward. If they do not go forward, lipids accumulate which is directly tied to high levels of choleterol. A study on time-released niacin shows its effectiveness. The study I found used pharmaceutical time-released niacin but I believe these two are very similar - with the natural form being superior. The bottom line of the study: "The results show that niacin ER [extended release] produces a beneficial effect on lipoprotein subclasses, specifically decreasing the more atherogenic small, dense LDL particles and enhancing the cardioprotective large HDL particles." Remember what I said about bad LDL and good HDL? The inositol sounds pretty good now doesn't it?
  5. Red Yeast Rice: This is what the pharmaceutical companies make some statin drugs from - directly! So why not take it in its natural state? It works quite well. It works by limiting the cholesterol reaction from going forward. This means that cholesterol's production is slowed down thereby lowering cholesterol naturally. I have found a great research article on PubMed for Red Yeast Rice. The research was done by the Center for Human Nutrition and is not biased by a natural supplement company. Here is the study: Cholesterol-lowering effects of a proprietary Chinese red-yeast-rice dietary supplement.
  6. Policosanol: This is sugar wax. Sound safe? It is. It does not turn off the cholesterol forming reaction as strongly as statin drugs. Our bodies need some cholesterol formed. Without it, numerous hormones would not be made and we would be dead. Thus, it is better to moderately limit production rather than severly limit. Policosanol has also shown to increase the levels of HDL. Do statin drugs do this? No. There is a good study on this that I found on PubMed. You'll notice it is not a study made by a natural supplement company or with biased interests. Here it is: Comparison of the efficacy and tolerability of policosanol with atorvastatin in elderly patients with type II hypercholesterolaemia
  7. BioLipotrol: This natural supplement is made by Biogenesis. BioLipotrol has Red Yeast Rice, Inositol, Policosanol and Guggal Gum extract. I work for Biogenesis and have preceptored with Dr David Wood. I have visited with physician after physician that have used BioLipotrol and the results are seen within a couple weeks. Now this doesn't mean you can sit on your couch eating hamburgers and pizza while popping BioLipotrol capsules. I have already stated that exercise is the best medicine - along with the limitation of animal fats and an increase in soluble fiber. I did not know about BioLipotrol until a classmate kept buying it. I found her in the hall one day and asked her what it is. She told me it is working very well on her grandmother's high cholesterol levels. Then I became more interested. The benefits of being in med school - you find what works and what doesn't. You can find BioLipotrol by Biogenesis here.

What are the dangers of Statin drugs?

I don't know all of the dangers but I know one that is not often addressed. Statin drugs give the false impression that the one taking them does not have to be proactive in lowering cholesterol. If a drug is lowering cholesterol without them doing anything, why not chomp on fatty foods? I'll tell you why. Statin drugs limit the production of cholesterol. They do not limit the intake of cholesterol. You do.

Also - statin drugs seriously limit the production of Coenzyme Q10. This is a major energy source for the human heart and electron transport chain. So if you are on statin drugs, take CoQ10. I believe statin drugs also limit the conversion of active Vitamin D. This I need to check on but it makes sense if following the reactions down from HMG-CoA, which is the limiting step in cholesterol synthesis.

If you want to lower cholesterol naturally, these steps will no doubt help you. I recommend having a sit-down chat with your physician. Most docs will listen to you and be supportive and knowledgable about this arena. If not, find a licensed and qualified naturopathic physician who will listen to you.

This information is not telling you to stop taking your statin drugs. It is merely information. Do not stop your statin drugs without consulting with your physician. Only then, under their direction, stop the meds if you implement other means.

If you are not on statin drugs and you don't have money to see a doctor, these steps may help you lower cholestrol naturally. But as I am not a doctor yet, I am not prescribing any of this information to you. It is up to you.

I hope you are still awake. That is a ton of information. I know I'm wiped. I've got to get away from this computer now.

Take care and stay healthy. And again - if you have any health questions, do ask me. I am here to help.

Author's Bio: 

Graduated from University of Washington with B.Sc. Cell and Molecular Biology. Attending Bastyr University to obtain doctorate in Naturopathic medicine. Married with two boys living in Seattle, WA. Founder of HealthE Goods, online natural health store Come visit our Healthy Lifestyle and Wellness Blog which is updated weekly