High cholesterol is caused by eating fatty foods and not exercising enough. Being overweight, smoking and drinking alcohol are other known causes. The NHS recommends a number of ways high cholesterol levels can be lowered. These include eating less fatty food, exercising more, stopping smoking and cutting down on alcohol – all of which may seem obvious. But another, lesser known way high cholesterol can be lowered is by taking glucomannan supplements.
A 2008 review of evidence published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggested glucomannan can reduce levels of total cholesterol and cause a drop in ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol.
The researchers suggested glucomannan has this effect by altering the way cholesterol is produced in the liver, and also how fats in the body are stored or used for energy.
Holland & Barret explains what glucomannan is: “Glucomannan, or konjac as it is sometimes known, is a natural, water-soluble fibre derived from the roots of a south-east Asian plant called the elephant yam.
“It has been traditionally used by the Chinese to detoxify and ease symptoms of asthma, and is still used to make noodles and tofu.
“As with any fibre, glucomannan can help you feel more satisfied after eating, but what makes it interesting to scientists is that glucomannan has extraordinary water absorption capacities – it’s able to absorb up to 50 times its own weight in water.
“Glucomannan is often used as a bulking agent in foods, appearing as E425 on food labels.
“It’s also available as capsules and powder, and is added to some diet foods such as pastas and noodles.”
When it comes to dosage of glucomannan supplements, the high street health store advises a dose of around 1g to 4g per day has been used safely in studies.
But it warns: “Always read the packaging or food label first.
“Take glucomannan 15 minutes to an hour before a meal, and make sure you swallow it with 1-2 glasses of fluid to avoid it expanding before it reaches your stomach, as this could be dangerous.”
Glucomannan has not been proved safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women or children.
Lecithin is a fatty substance found in the cells of your body, plant and animal tissues.
It’s made up of fatty acids, and in particular one type of fat molecule called phospholipids – an essential element of cell membranes.
A 2009 study found participants who took 500mg a day of lecithin had 56 per cent lower LDL cholesterol after two months.
As well as being available in supplement form, lecithin is also found in a number of foods, including whole grain, nuts, soybeans and egg yolks.