Can Metamucil Help Me Lower My Total Cholesterol?
Metamucil is a psyllium fiber laxative. Psyllium is a fiber extracted from the husk of the psyllium seed. It absorbs water and swells in the intestines. This makes the stool softer, more voluminous and easier to pass.
For centuries, psyllium has been used as a natural remedy. Metamucil was first introduced in 1934. According to the Metamucil website, it contains 100% natural psyllium fiber. In addition to lowering cholesterol and promoting regularity, Metamucil is designed to help you feel fuller between meals and to maintain blood sugar levels.
How does Metamucil work on cholesterol?
Psyllium is a natural product. It can help lower total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. LDL, also known as bad cholesterol, can cause clogged arteries and can lead to strokes and heart attacks.
Psyllium is believed to help the body absorb waste products, bile acids and cholesterol that are excreted during bowel movements. This may be due to its ability to swell and form a thick gel.
Psyllium comes from the psyllium shrub, which grows worldwide but is more common in Asia; each plant can produce up to 15,000 tiny seeds from which psyllium husks are made.
Metamucil is the best known, but psyllium is also available as a cheap brand of laxative.
Psyllium can relieve constipation and diarrhea and is used to treat intestinal problems such as irritable bowel syndrome. Psyllium can also help regulate blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.
Studies have shown that psyllium can lower total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of heart disease.
How effective is Metamucil in lowering LDL cholesterol?
In a meta-analysis1 of eight studies involving 384 people with high cholesterol levels, adding psyllium to a low-fat diet for several weeks lowered LDL cholesterol by an additional 7%.
Another well-designed study2 conducted at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky, found that 197 people who took psyllium for 6 months had LDL cholesterol levels that were 6.7% lower than 51 people in the placebo group.
What dose should I take?
In general, every 2 grams of soluble fiber added to the diet can lower LDL cholesterol by about 1%, or a little more.
In the meta-analysis above, the dose that achieved a 7% reduction in LDL was 10.2 grams of psyllium per day, which is equivalent to about 3 teaspoons of unsweetened Mead Johnson per day.
The dose in the veteran study was the same – 10.2 grams per day.
If you buy a fiber supplement from a brand other than Metamucil, make sure it’s based on psyllium, not fiber.
What the research says
A reliable 1990 study concluded that psyllium could help lower cholesterol. This led to further research on the effects of psyllium on cholesterol; in 2000, a meta-analysis was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN). The report reviewed eight studies on the effectiveness of psyllium in lowering cholesterol. Researchers determined that psyllium significantly lowered LDL cholesterol in participants who were already consuming a low-fat diet. There were no significant differences between men and women, but the greatest reductions in LDL cholesterol were seen in older participants.
Psyllium may help lower triglycerides in patients with type 2 diabetes, according to a recent study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (EJCN) Reliable Sources. In the study, 40 patients with type 2 diabetes were followed up. They were treated with sulfonylureas and antidiabetic drugs and had a controlled diet as prescribed. Study participants were assigned to receive psyllium three times a day or to the control group. The control group received only the control diet.
Triglycerides were significantly lower in those treated with psyllium. There was no change in the control group.
A study published in 2011 in the British Journal of Nutrition also found a link between psyllium and cholesterol. The researchers concluded that adding psyllium to a regular or high-fiber diet can lower LDL and total cholesterol levels.
How to use Metamucil
Metamucil is available in several forms, including
- Health bars
While waffles and health bars are a good source of fiber, they are not recommended for cholesterol-lowering. According to the Metamucil website, the following doses are required to lower cholesterol
Drink at least 8 ounces of water with each dose of Metamucil, and drink plenty of water throughout the day. Check with your doctor to see what dose is right for you.
Side effects of Metamucil and precautions for use
In general, it is wise to add Metamucil to your diet gradually. Other digestive complications such as upset stomach, gas, constipation, and diarrhea may also occur.
Metamucil is well tolerated by most people. However, the following side effects may occur
- Abdominal pain
- Abdominal bloating
To reduce the risk of discomfort, start with a low dose and gradually increase the dose.
In addition, there are other side effects and precautions to be aware of with psyllium. Some people may experience mild allergic reactions, such as hives, nasal swelling, eyelid swelling, and asthma. In rare cases, metamucil may also cause severe allergic reactions.
- shortness of breath
- throat congestion
- chest tightness
You should not take this medicine if you are suffering from methicillin.
- Fecal damage
- constriction of the large intestine
- Intestinal obstruction
- Spasmodic enteritis
Metamucil can also lower blood pressure
If you are planning to have surgery, you should stop taking Metamucil 2 weeks before the procedure. This is to prevent the risk of a drop in blood sugar levels.
Metamucil may also interact with, or affect the effectiveness or potency of, the following drugs
- Anti-diabetic drugs
- Hypertensive drugs
- Anti-hypertensive drugs
- Herbs and supplements to lower blood sugar levels
Metamucil may be a natural alternative to cholesterol-lowering medications. When combined with a healthy diet and exercise, it can lower cholesterol alone or enhance the effects of cholesterol-lowering medications. Talk to your doctor about ways to lower your cholesterol. He or she can help you decide if taking Metamucil is right for you.