Psyllium Supplements to Lower Cholesterol

Psyllium is derived from psyllium seed husks from various plants that belong to the genus Plantago. This seed is commonly manufactured as a supplement that is available in many forms, such as powders, cereals, pills or capsules. You've probably seen psyllium supplements lining the shelves of your local pharmacy, grocery store, or health foods store where they are widely available. The soluble fiber component of psyllium has been widely studied in treating constipation. Because of this, psyllium supplements are often found with other over-the-counter drugs that treat gastrointestinal ailments. Many studies also suggest that psyllium can help lower your cholesterol levels.

Psyllium husks in a wooden bowl
mady70 / Getty Images 


Most studies involved people that had mild to moderately high cholesterol levels without taking cholesterol-lowering medications. People participating in these studies took doses of psyllium between 2 grams and 45 grams per day either in powder, pill, or cereal form. However, most studies used doses between 3 grams and 10.5 grams of psyllium daily. In some cases where larger doses were taken, the doses were divided and taken throughout the day, instead of being consumed at one time. Some studies did not designate a particular diet for the study participants to follow, whereas people in other studies followed a low-fat diet in addition to taking psyllium. Psyllium was taken for a time period between one week and six months.

Although there were a few studies that did not show an appreciable difference in lipid levels in people taking psyllium daily, most studies demonstrated that:

Most studies did not see any significant changes in HDL and triglyceride levels in individuals taking psyllium. The cholesterol-lowering effects of psyllium also appear to be dose-dependent—that is, the higher the dose given, the lower total and LDL cholesterol levels will go.

It is thought that psyllium’s cholesterol-lowering effects can be attributed to soluble fiber, a complex carbohydrate that develops a gel-like consistency when it enters the digestive tract. It is thought that this soluble fiber lowers cholesterol by reducing its absorption from the small intestine and into the bloodstream.

Should You Take Psyllium?

There are many studies that suggest that psyllium can slightly lower your total cholesterol and LDL levels—making this supplement a promising addition to your cholesterol management plan. However, there do not appear to be any studies examining the long-term effects of psyllium on cholesterol levels beyond six months. Although psyllium appears to be relatively safe, some people taking psyllium in these studies experienced mild gastrointestinal symptoms, such as diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain, and flatulence.

If you are interested in taking psyllium supplements to help lower your cholesterol, you should discuss this with your healthcare provider first. Psyllium may interact with certain medications and vitamins that you are taking, preventing the drugs from being absorbed into the body. Therefore, it is recommended that other medications be taken either two hours before or two hours after taking psyllium. Additionally, if you have certain medical conditions involving your gastrointestinal tract, psyllium may potentially worsen them.

Psyllium should be taken with at least 8 ounces of fluid and adequate fluid intake should be maintained while taking psyllium, since psyllium can swell and block your throat or intestinal tract without consuming the appropriate amount of fluids.

Some food manufacturers add psyllium to certain cereals, breakfast bars, and crackers, so if you do not like taking supplemental pills or powder, this option might be more appealing. You should check the package labeling for psyllium and nutritional content of the food product.

1 Source
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  1. Xiao Z, Chen H, Zhang Y, et al. The effect of psyllium consumption on weight, body mass index, lipid profile, and glucose metabolism in diabetic patients: A systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Phytother Res. 2020. doi:10.1002/ptr.6609

Additional Reading
  • Anderson JW, Allgood LD, Lawrence A, et al. Cholesterol-lowering effects of psyllium intake adjunctive to diet therapy in men and women with hypercholesterolemia: a meta-analysis of 8 controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr 2000;71:472-479.
  • deBock M, Derraik JGB, Brennan CM et al. Psyllium supplementation in adolescents improves fat distribution and lipid profile: a randomized, participant-blinding, placebo-controlled, crossover trial. PLoS One 2012;7:e41735.
  • Ribas SA, Cunha DB, Sichieri R et al. Effects of psyllium on LDL cholesterol concentrations in Brazilian children and adolescents: a randomized, parallel clinical trial. Br J Nutr 2015;113:134-141.
  • Van Rosendaal GMA, Shaffer EA, Edwards EL, et al. Effect of time of administration on cholesterol-lowering by psyllium: a randomized cross-over study in normocholesterolemic or slightly hypercholesterolemic subjects. Nutr J 2004;3:1-7.
  • Wei W, Wang H, Chen XY et al. Time and dose-dependent effect of psyllium on serum lipids in mild to moderate hypercholesterolemia: a meta-analysis of controlled clinical trials. Eur J Clin Nutr 2009;63:821-827.

By Jennifer Moll, PharmD
Jennifer Moll, MS, PharmD, is a pharmacist actively involved in educating patients about the importance of heart disease prevention.