How to Lower LDL

Many men are interesting in lowering their LDL levels in order to hopefully control or reverse arterial plaque.  This will improve blood flow, decrease the risk of heart attack and, above all, help tremendously in the bedroom.  Still other men have very high levels of LDL and want to pull it down in order to decrease their risk of heart disease.  Whatever your reason, kudos to you for tackling what is undisputably the #1 health problem (and killer) of men. 

If you want to control or regress plaque, then in my opinion it is best to stick with the guidelines of the Plaque Regressers, who all require LDL to be below 80 mg/dl.  For more information, you can read my page on Anti-Plaque LDL Levels. Of course, getting below 80 naturally is not the easiest thing in the world, but dropping below 90 is not particularly hard.  My last read was in the upper 80's for example. 

So, to get yourself below 80, should you take a statin?  I don't think that will be necessary, and the way to avoid doing that is from a combination of lifestyle choices and foods.  Let's start with the Big Three Ways to Lower Your LDL:

1. Weight Loss.  For every pound of weight that you lose, you will correspondingly lose a point in cholesterol and probably almost a point in LDL.  Most men in the U.S. are at least 30 pounds overweight and so you can see what a huge difference this can make. 

2. Correct Hypothyroidism.  Hypothyroidism will drive up LDL levels with a vengeance.   And correcting hypothyroidism with medication can lower LDL by an average of 12.8 mg/dl according to one study. [1] One study even suggested that high cholesterol couple with high normal TSH be considered for thyroid medications just to lower high cholesterol (and, therefore, LDL) levels. [2]

3. Plaque Reversing Diet. I recommend, as a starting point, choosing one of the diets offered up by the Three Plaque Reversers, Drs. Gould, Esselstyn and Davis. Here is quick overview of each and links to their book reviews. In my opinion, every guy over the age of 25 should have all three of these books and should have them just about memorized:

  • Dr. Gould's Diet. This is low fat but allows some meat and demphasizes grain and nuts/seed/oils. His book: Heal Your Heart.
  • Dr. Davis' Diet. This is low saturated fat but allows some monounsaturated fat and omega-3's. His book: Track Your Plaque.
  • Dr. Esselstyn's Diet. This is low fat and vegan with no nuts or oils. His book: Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease,
  • Read these books and choose one of the diets and you'll see your LDL dropping in no time.  I do want to point out that none of these diets by themselves will probably get you below 80, especially if you are not losing weight.  And this is the reason that all three of the above physicians will use various supplements and/or statins in order to get a man in complaince.

    So is there any way to avoid taking a statin then?  I believe so and the answer lies in the foods and supplements below, which can significantly lower cholesterol and LDL.

    Foods to Lower LDL

    "Food is clincial."  When I write that, I mean that food has a very profound effect and to the point that it can be used to produce clinical, medical results.  The examples below illustrate this perfectly.  Put some of them together and you've got a nice package to keep your LDL in check day and night:

    1. Tomato.  Researchers gave men and women 400 ml of tomato juice and 30 ml of ketchup daily and watched their cholesterol drop by 13%!  [5] Of course, this translated to a nice drop in LDL as well from an average of 94 to 84 mg/dl.  This is particularly important for me, because these were individuals with pretty good LDL levels and yet tomato products still dropped their LDL significantly.  In my case, I would like to drop my LDL by about 10 points and, of course, that is exactly what occurred in this study.

    CAUTION:  Some men may be sensitive to consuming a lot of "nightshade" foods.

    2. Oat Bran.  Many men know that "oats lower cholesterol."  Multiple studies actually show this, at least in men with high cholesterol.  One study found that giving men just 1 oz (28 g) of oat bran did the following:

    "Blood lipid studies demonstrated significantly greater reductions in total cholesterol (average -2.2%) and LDL cholesterol (average -3.9%) in the oat-bran groups than in the wheat-cereal groups." [3] That's not bad for a small amount of the bran of one grain, eh? Larger amounts appear to yield even more impressive results. 

    Another study found that oat bran also decreased the LDL particle count, which is probably your most important lipid number.  Oat bran also lowered LDL particle size - also incredibly important - along with triglycerides and LDL!  Hard to beat that, eh? [10]

    Bumping the amount up to 100 gram dropped cholesterol and LDL 13% and 14%, respectively. [6] Again, these were in men and women with high cholesterol, so it's hard to know how much of a drop someone with lower LDL levels would experience.

    It is important to not that this was out bran and not oatmeal.  Oatmeal can spike post-meal blood sugar in some sesnsitive individuals.

    3. Raisins.  One study found that a cup of raisins every day dropped LDL-C by 3.5%. [7] The authors explained that there are many ways raisins probalby lower LDL:

    "The addition of raisins to the diet may decrease CVD risk, as they contain dietary fiber to lower LDL-C, as well as a significant amount of polyphenols. Raisin polyphenols may interfere with cholesterol absorption, as shown with red wine polyphenols. Raisins and red wine are both derived from grapes; however, the drying process causes loss of polyphenols in raisins. Despite this, there is still a substantial amount of polyphenols on a per weight basis [13]. Raisin polyphenols can potentially decrease plasma TG by reducing apo E, as shown with lyophilized grape powder (LGP) supplementation in women. LGP also decreased VLDL particle secretion from the liver, possibly via MTP inhibition, which would contribute to reduced plasma TG and LDL-C "

    NOTE:  TG = triglycerides; LDL-C = the standard LDL number you are used to.

    4. Strawberries. One study, admittedly in mostly women (with Metabolic Syndrome), found that 50 grams of freeze dried strawberries per day reduced LDL by about 12%. [8] This is an impressive drop, because it is the equivalent to about 3 cups of fresh strawberries.

     5. Flaxseed.  Just 20 grams of flaxseed reduced LDL by about 4% in patients with high cholesterol. [9] Two recent studies also show that Flaxseed Fights Against Prostate Cancer and Flaxseed Helps Clear Out Your ARteries.. Not bad, eh/

    6.  Garlic.  Not only does garlic lower LDL, but it keeps it from being oxidized, giving it a double punch in the fight against atherosclerosis. [4] Garlic will also drop your blood pressure and, when combined with Vitamin C, really boost your arterial nitric oxide levels.  What's not to like?!? (See my page on Garlic and Erectile Dysfunction for more information.)

     PLANT-BASED FOODS.  If you'll notice, all of these LDL-lowering foods are plant-based.  I put some of the heavy hitters above, but keep in mind that many plant foods will lower LDL via their fiber, polyphenol and sterol content.


    1)  The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 2001 Oct, 86(10), "TSH-Controlled l-Thyroxine Therapy Reduces Cholesterol Levels and Clinical Symptoms in Subclinical Hypothyroidism: A Double Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial (Basel Thyroid Study)"

    2) Eur J Endocrinol, Febr 1 1998 138 141-145, "High serum cholesterol levels in persons with 'high-normal' TSH levels: should one extend the definition of subclinical hypothyroidism?"

    3) The Journal of Family Practice, 1991, 33(6):600-608, "Randomized, controlled, crossover trial of oat bran in hypercholesterolemic subjects."

    4) Am J Clin Nutr, Oct 1981, 34(10:10 2100-2103, "Effect of garlic on blood lipids in patients with coronary heart disease"

    5) British Journal of Nutrition, Dec 2007, 98(06):1251-1258, "Tomato juice decreases LDL cholesterol levels and increases LDL resistance to oxidation"

    6) Am J Clin Nutr, May 1981, 34(5):824-829, "Oat-bran intake selectively lowers serum low-density lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations of hypercholesterolemic men"

    7) Lipids in Health and Disease, 2008, 7:14, "Raisins and additional walking have distinct effects on plasma lipids and inflammatory cytokines"

    8) Nutrition Research, Jul 2010, 30(7):462 469, "Strawberries decrease atherosclerotic markers in subjects with metabolic syndrome"

    9) Revista Medico-chirurgicala a Societatii de Medici si Naturalisti din Iasi, 2005, 109(3):502-506, "Flaxseed supplementation in hyperlipidemic patients."

    10) Am J Clin Nutr, Aug 2002,76(2):51-358, "High-fiber oat cereal compared with wheat cereal consumption favorably alters LDL-cholesterol subclass and particle numbers in middle-aged and older men"