So you’ve had your cholesterol results back and there’s some bold words, an asterisk or two and a big, scary H for ‘high’. You’ve been given advice around diet and lifestyle and perhaps prescribed some pharmaceuticals. It’s a lot to take in, so here’s something very simple that you can do to help bring things back into balance. Psyllium husks.
According to Google Scholar, there are thousands of studies that have looked at the effect of psyllium husk on blood lipids. What have those studies found?
- Most studies are relatively short term (6-8 weeks) and show LDL lowering in the range of 6-18% compared to placebo, so there is considerable individual variation with some studies identifying ‘responders’ and ‘non-responders’.
- A longer study (Anderson et al., 2000) found that over 6 months, Total and LDL cholesterol levels fell 4.7% and 6.7%. This was significantly different from the placebo group whom were taking a different fibre supplement.
- The amount used in trials was 10-15 grams over the course of the day, usually in two doses.
- Psyllium therapy may be safely used alongside drug and diet therapy to increase their effectiveness.
How Does it Work?
The primary mechanism of action appear to be a stimulation of bile acid synthesis and secretion, although ‘how’ it does this is, as yet, unclear.
A strong theory is that psyllium traps bile acid, instead of letting it be re-absorbed by the body, thereby requiring more to be produced. As cholesterol is the primary component bile acid, this may account for the lowering of measured cholesterol.
It is also theorised that psyllium husk may increase production of an enzyme that breaks down cholesterol, known as cholesterol-7a-hydroxylase. Another potential mechanism of action is that as the fibre ferments in the colon, byproducts are absorbed that lower cholesterol synthesis in the liver and certain immune cells (peripheral blood mononuclear cells), although findings for that theory are inconsistent. Unlike food components such as phytosterols, psyllium husk has only a small effect on cholesterol absorption in the gut.
|What does it do?||Lowers total and LDL cholesterol by up to 18%|
|Husks or husk powder?||Studies reviewed used psyllium husk powder|
|Amount to use||5-15 grams a day|
|How to use it||Always take psyllium with enough liquid to absorb it. It can be mixed into any liquid as well as used in baking or sprinkled on food|
|How long to use it for||At least 6 weeks|
|How does it work?||Most likely increases excretion and therefore production of bile acid, which requires cholesterol as well as increasing synthesis of cholesterol-7a-hydroxylase which breaks down cholesterol|
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