Does Metamucil reduce cholesterol?

You may be familiar with Metamucil as a way of keeping yourself regular, but what you may not know is it can also be useful for reducing cholesterol.  One study showed that introducing just 1g of psyllium administered with each meal caused almost a 15% drop in cholesterol levels in participants.  

What was even more encouraging was that the program did not adversely affect body weight, blood pressure, or HDL “good” cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose, iron, or zinc.

So does that mean everyone should be shovelling Metamucil down with their breakfast smoothies?  Not necessarily. 

Firstly what is actually in Metamucil?  The active ingredient is the humble psyllium husk which traps water in the intestine and also increases bulk of your stool with fibre. Beyond that all that’s added is some sucrose, flavouring and colouring.  None of which actually contribute to the effectiveness of the product. So you can get the same benefits without having to buy the brand itself.

In fairness, if you are eating a diet rich in leafy green vegetables then staying reasonably regular should not be too much of an issue. But many people have genetically high levels of cholesterol, and you may be surprised to know that only about 20% of your cholesterol comes from the foods you eat. Most cholesterol is actually being created by your liver – and you need cholesterol because it forms the building block for hormones, vitamins and cell formation. No, cholesterol is not the villain you were led to believe!

If your cholesterol is stubbornly high you may want to look at non-medical options, like plant sterols or psyllium before you resort to statins.

Whether you decide to go with Metamucil or just natural psyllium husk is up to you. But there are a couple of things to remember either way.

First up, because it is so absorbent, psyllium or Metamucil can interfere with your body’s ability to absorb medications and vitamins.  So if you’re going to use either, it’s best to leave a few hours gap between then and when you take your various pills.

Secondly be careful not to use too much.  Start with a half a teaspoon or less in a glass of water.  Make sure you hydrate more than normal on that day.

Finally if you’re gluten intolerant, remember that psyllium can be a great addition to gluten-free baking, adding a little of that gooey texture you can get with wheat.

Pysillium husk is available from most health food stores and you can sprinkle it over your cereal or your toast, but do remember to start small and always consult your doctor for best advice on your cholesterol.  One option is to get your cholesterol measured, trial psyllium for a few months and see what impact it has on your levels.  Most doctors will agree to that as a trial.