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Does the Laxative Psyllium Really Lower Cholesterol?

Regular consumption of the laxative psyllium can lower cholesterol and blood sugar as well as prevent constipation.

Dietary fiber is almost universally acknowledged as beneficial. Diets rich in whole grains and vegetables that supply fiber seem to be associated with better cardiovascular health, better metabolic balance and greater regularity. The laxative psyllium is based on plant fiber and has multiple health benefits. One reader was told it would lower cholesterol.

How Does the Laxative Psyllium Lower Cholesterol?

Q. My doctor recommended psyllium for double duty: to lower my cholesterol and keep me regular. How does this laxative lower cholesterol?

A. Psyllium is fiber from the plantago plant. It is sold as psyllium husk fiber or under a brand name such as Metamucil. Actually, psyllium can do more than double duty: in addition to serving as a laxative, the fiber can counteract diarrhea.

In addition, the soluble fiber binds to bile acids in the digestive tract, allowing you to eliminate excess cholesterol. While psyllium won’t lower total cholesterol as much as statins, it can lower this blood lipid anywhere from 9 to 15 points (McRae, Journal of Chiropractic Medicine, Dec. 2017).

Other Benefits of the Laxative Psyllium:

Taking psyllium may also reduce levels of triglycerides and blood sugar (Ota & Ulrih, Frontiers in Pharmacology, July 6, 2017). Overweight adults who took psyllium every day for a year as part of a randomized controlled trial had significantly lower insulin levels at the end of that time (Pal et al, Nutrients, Jan. 29, 2017). Part of the effect of psyllium both as a laxative and for lowering cholesterol and blood glucose is due to its viscosity and ability to trap liquid and form a gel (McRorie & McKeown, Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Feb. 2017).

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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