Statins are a common form of treatment for reducing cholesterol, but there are effective alternatives as well. According to recent findings, a heart-healthy diet, other cholesterol-lowering medications, and intestinal bypass surgery were all found to provide cholesterol-lowering benefits similar to those of statins.
Senior investigator Dr. Marc Sabatine said, “The focus really should be not on a particular drug, but on reducing LDL cholesterol. These data show there are multiple interventions that can do that.”
Statins work by reducing the liver’s production of cholesterol. Over 25 percent of Americans over the age of 40 are taking statins. Dr. Sabatine explained, “The most recent guidelines in 2013 focused almost exclusively on statins and were silent on LDL cholesterol targets.”
To determine if other treatments are as effective in lowering cholesterol as statins, the researchers reviewed 49 clinical trials, which included 25 trials on statins. Other trials focused on the following alternative treatments:
- A heart-healthy diet high in fiber, which was found to clear cholesterol in the blood
- Zetia, a drug that blocks the absorption of cholesterol in the blood
- Bile acid sequestrants, drugs that encourage the liver to pull more cholesterol from the blood stream and convert it into bile acids
- Ileal bypass surgery, which shortens the length of the small intestine and promotes the conversion of cholesterol into bile acids
The take-home message from the present study is that statins are not the only way to treat cholesterol, and other options are available. The study also stresses the importance of reducing LDL cholesterol as a means of lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease and other heart complications.