Alternative to lowering cholesterol may be found in your pantry

Alternative to lowering cholesterol may be found in your pantry
By: Lauren Keith
Hundreds of Americans deal with high cholesterol levels.  Often, they turn to prescription drugs to remedy, but there's now more attention focused on a natural alternative.  That method may just be in your pantry. It's the spice you know as cinnamon!
It's a relatively new method, so doctors aren't too quick too sign off on it, just yet.  That's not stopping the cinnamon extract capsules from flying off the health store shelves.
Maybe you've read about the so-called benefits of cinnamon by mail, or maybe you've heard about it at the health foods store. Either way, Mike Brown says more people than ever are buying up cinnamon capsules at his store in Cape Girardeau.
"I talk to customers everyday and the response has been overwhelmingly positive," says Brown. 
Lori Pettet, a dietitian with St. Francis Medical Center agrees.
"People are hearing about it through the grapevine and trying it.  They're increasing their cinnamon consumption, and they're seeing good results, at least so far," says Pettet. 
The question remains: why are so many people turning to cinnamon rather than to prescription drugs, which are proven to lower cholesterol levels?
"Prescription drugs are expensive.  They have side effects, and sometimes there are adverse reactions. Up to this point, cinnamon is an easy answer," says Pettet.
Sometimes, it's also a cheaper alternative.  Some with high cholesterol are even buying ground cinnamon they find in the spice aisle, dissolving it in water, and drinking it.  However, Brown says Cinnamon Bark capsules are a simpler solution.
"The problem with cinnamon you buy in the spice aisle, is that it's been irradiated to have a long shelf life--say up to five years.  It's okay to eat, certainly, but for automatic results, you want the pure extract you most likely find in capsule form," says Brown.
Before you dabble in this alternative method, dietitian Lori Pettet urges caution.
"Talk to your doctor. Don't stop taking medication and rely only on cinnamon. I would hate it if someone stopped taking their medication altogether who really needed them, and relied only on cinnamon," says Pettet.
Mike brown also tells his customers to talk with their physicians about any alternative methods they're trying, but he also tells everyone to keep an open mind when it comes to your health.
"The cinnamon is working. People wouldn't buy it, if it wasn't.  That's our biggest indicator of how well a supplement's doing," says Brown.
So, how do you know if you have high cholesterol? Unfortunately, Lori Pettet says there aren't any symptoms!  Usually, patients find out about high cholesterol levels, after they have some sort of cardiac arrest. So, it's best to get your cholesterol checked, starting at age 40.  However, if you have a family history of it, then, you should start getting it checked much earlier than that.
Some risk factors for high cholesterol include: being overweight, having high blood pressure, and eating foods high in fat.  Again, even skinny people can have high cholesterol--- thanks to that family history.
By the way, St. Francis Medical Center offers cholesterol screenings every Wednesday morning in the Health and Wellness center lobby. Lori Pettet also says regular exercise can greatly reduce cholesterol levels.