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Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2017 Jan;27(1):2-17. doi: 10.1016/j.numecd.2016.11.122. Epub 2016 Nov 22.

Joint position statement on "Nutraceuticals for the treatment of hypercholesterolemia" of the Italian Society of Diabetology (SID) and of the Italian Society for the Study of Arteriosclerosis (SISA).

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Unit of Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Perugia, Perugia, Italy; Italian Society for the Study of Arteriosclerosis (SISA), Italy.
Department of Clinical Medicine and Surgery, "Federico II" University, Naples, Italy; Italian Society of Diabetology (SID), Italy.
Italian Society of Diabetology (SID), Italy; Unit of Diabetology and Metabolic Diseases, Department of Medical Area "Azienda Ospedaliero-Universitaria Pisana", Pisa, Italy.
Italian Society for the Study of Arteriosclerosis (SISA), Italy; Department of Pharmacy, University of Parma, Parma, Italy.
Department of Clinical Medicine and Surgery, "Federico II" University, Naples, Italy; Italian Society of Diabetology (SID), Italy. Electronic address:



Evidence showed that LDL-cholesterol lowering is associated with a significant cardiovascular risk reduction. The initial therapeutic approach to hypercholesterolemia includes dietary modifications but the compliance to recommendations is often inadequate. Some dietary components with potential cholesterol-lowering activity are present in small amounts in food. Therefore, in recent years the use of "nutraceuticals" (i.e., nutrients and/or bioactive compounds with potential beneficial effects on human health) has become widespread. Such substances may be added to foods and beverages, or taken as dietary supplements (liquid preparations, tablets, capsules). In the present manuscript, the cholesterol-lowering activity of some nutraceuticals (i.e. fiber, phytosterols, soy, policosanol, red yeast rice and berberine) will be discussed along with: 1) the level of evidence on the cholesterol-lowering efficacy emerging from clinical trial; 2) the possible side effects associated with their use; 3) the categories of patients who could benefit from their use.


Based on the current literature, the cholesterol-lowering effect of fiber, phytosterols and red yeast rice is consistent and supported by a good level of evidence. Over berberine, there is sufficient evidence showing significant cholesterol-lowering effects, although the results come from studies carried out almost exclusively in Asian populations. Data on the effects of soy are conflicting and, therefore, the strength of recommendation is quite low. The evidence on policosanol is inconclusive.


Although health benefits may arise from the use of nutraceuticals with cholesterol-lowering activity, their use might be also associated with possible risks and pitfalls, some of which are common to all nutraceuticals whereas others are related to specific nutraceuticals.


Berberine; Cholesterol; Fiber; Nutraceuticals; Phytosterols; Policosanol; Red yeast rice; Soy

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