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Ask Dr. Mike: Supplements to Boost HDL Levels & Do Magnetic Bracelets Have Health Benefits?

Here you'll find the answers to a wealth of health and wellness questions posed by Healthy Talk fans. Listen in because what you know helps ensure healthy choices you can live with. Today on Healthy Talk, you wanted to know:

My husband swears his magnetic bracelet works. What are your thoughts about these bracelets?

Magnetic bracelets have been used by many to reduce pain, heal wounds, and decrease water retention. However, there aren't any conclusions that can be drawn from this. Dr. Mike thinks there are some therapeutic benefits to magnets. The cells in your body have electrical charges that can be influenced by magnets. There just needs to be more research done on magnets as a treatment option.

My good cholesterol (HDL) is really low, around 20. My doctor wants it to be half of my LDL, which is 90. Are there any natural supplements that I can take to raise my HDL?

If youe only issue is a low HDL, there are supplements you can take. However, there are also 17 total risk factors that can contribute to heart disease (if this is something you're worried about). If your doctor has said you need to raise your HDL levels, Dr. Mike suggests taking niacin, vitamin B3, lactobacillus reuteri, and omega-3 fatty acid.

If you have a health question or concern, Dr. Mike encourages you to write him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call in, toll-free, to the LIVE radio show (1.877.711.5211) so he can provide you with support and helpful advice.

RadioMD Presents:Healthy Talk | Original Air Date: February 25, 2015
Host: Michael Smith, MD

It’s time for you to be a part of the show. Email or call with questions for Dr. Mike now. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Call: 877-711-5211. What are you waiting for? The doctor is in.

So, my first question has to do with those magnetic medical bracelets that people wear often. Many of the companies that manufacture these bracelets, gosh, they say that it can decrease water retention, improve wound healing, pain. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t that long ago that I was watching one of those late night infomercials or whatever. Listen, those late night infomercials, those producers know what they’re doing. They know how to capture your attention. But, I was watching this show on these magnetic bracelets and this guy was in a mall and he was apparently stopping “random”—you didn’t see me, but I did that in the air quotation marks—“random” people. I’m sure they were actors. But most of them, by the way, were overweight, walking a little funny, a little hip pain, back pain type of stuff and he would have them stand without the bracelet on first and they’d put their hands out, close their eyes and he would barely touch their arms and they would fall over. Which, by the way, that is a legitimate neurological examination, but then, of course, they’d put the bracelet on and he would do the same thing and, all of a sudden, miraculously, they were able to stand strong and stand up straight. Literally, within seconds, years and years of back osteoarthritis and pain just went away. So, I’m, obviously, as a medical doctor—as someone who really believes in the scientific method—I’m a little skeptical with that kind of stuff. But, here’s the question from this listener: “My husband swears that his magnetic bracelet works. He had bouts of vertigo that completely stopped since wearing it, but I think it just cleared up. What are your thoughts about these bracelets? He’s thinking about adding a Tibet healing bracelet and it’s very expensive.” Okay. So, the first question is asking what my thoughts are, in general, about these bracelets. Okay, so I want to say something first about magnetism, in general. I think there is therapeutic application for magnets. I do. You know, your cells in the body have electrical charges in a fluid type of environment and those electrons, protons, even charged proteins, glycoproteins—which are sugars and proteins connected--all of them can be influenced in certain ways by magnets and that is true. So, I think there is some therapeutic application out there. By the way, I went on WebMD. You know, when it comes to natural medicine, I don’t go to WebMD too much because they’re a little biased towards allopathic stuff, but they always have at least just good general descriptions of things. Even on WebMD, they’re saying that magnets are currently being tested for pain, low back pain, foot pain, heel pain, arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, diabetes, menstrual pain, sports injuries and migraine headaches. So there is research looking at magnetism in treating those conditions. No results yet. No conclusions. They go on to say--and this kind of surprised me. They say that worldwide sales of magnets for treatment is estimated at over $5 billion annually. Wow. So, we are spending a lot of money on these things. I think, in general, magnetism has some therapeutic applications, but there are no hardcore conclusions on these things. In reference to your husband who had vertigo and who all of a sudden now doesn’t have it, maybe it did just clear up. I don’t have an answer for that. Things do just clear up, but he doesn’t have vertigo and he likes the bracelet and so, you know, let him continue to wear it. Now, you’re concerned about this Tibet healing bracelet. I looked those up online, too, and they are expensive. I really can’t tell you the difference between a basic magnetic bracelet and one of these Tibet ones. If you are a listener that has that kind of information, share it with me.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . But, they are expensive and whether those Tibet healing bracelets are better than a basic magnetic bracelet, I don’t know. If he’s already feeling better on the cheaper one, I mean, maybe that’s your argument. “Why do you need a new, more expensive model?” You know? Maybe that’s your argument. At least just let him keep the cheaper one. But, it’s working for him. You know, even if it is placebo effect. Placebo effect is placebo effect. People feel better, sometimes, on placebo. It’s true. That’s why we test things against placebo. So, my overall feeling about these magnetic bracelets is we need more research. I think magnetism itself is a potentially therapeutic modality, specifically for pain, but we just don’t have any major conclusions. I don’t believe the infomercial I saw. I don’t think anything works that fast. I just don’t. But, I could be wrong. I don’t know. So, we’ll have to see with more research.

Okay. Number two: “My good cholesterol is always so low, usually around 20. “ And that is very low. “My doctor wants it at least half my LDL, which is good at 90. Are there any natural supplements that raise HDL?”

Yes, I can give you some suggestions, but before I do, remember—and I’m glad that this question is coming up because more and more, I want to teach people—that there are more risk factors than just cholesterol, right? As a matter of fact, I’ve done radio shows on the 17 heart disease risk factors. There are 17. High LDL, and low HDL are risk factors, but there are 15 others that you need to put into context. So, if you’re only issue is a low HDL, okay. We can try to bring that up, but I don’t know. I mean, if inflammation is good and you’re Vitamin D level is good. Vitamin K2. You’re supplementing with that. You’re doing your fish oils, the Omega-3 oils, and hormones look well-balanced. I mean, I don’t know how much I would worry about this. Your doctor is right, at least in conventional medicine, we like the HDL to be at least half the LDL. I mean, that’s a good ratio, but I just think you’ve got to take this into context. I’m not given any other information here, so maybe you do need to get this HDL up, but if everything else looks fine, let’s try some things to raise the HDL, but let’s not get too crazy with it. Also, maybe consider an advanced cholesterol test. You know, HDL—there’s two types of HDL, high density lipoprotein—the good stuff. There’s HDL1 and 2 and they behave differently in the body. I think it’s the—I’d have to confirm this, but—it’s the HDL2 that’s more protective. So, if your HDL is at 20, but it’s all of the really good HDL, HDL2, well then, maybe you don’t need to raise it. So, I think an advanced cholesterol test would be helpful in this case. So, my suggestion for raising HDL in general--this also comes from the Life Extension Foundation, which has a wonderful protocol on cholesterol--is Niacin, Vitamin B3, 1000 mg, up to 2000 mg a day. Start low. Don’t start at a gram a day. You’ll flush like crazy and you’ll get mad at me. You know, maybe even start at 250 mg, 500 mg. You just work up slowly, take it with food. Even a baby aspirin helps with the flushing, but the flushing will, eventually, for most people, go away. So, Niacin. I don’t like “no-flush Niacin” and stuff like that. I think that if regular Niacin is not something that you can do because of the flushing, don’t try the “no flush” Niacin. Try something like Indian Gooseberry, which is called “amla”. That’s been shown to raise good cholesterol. There’s a probiotic--a bacterial strain called lactobacillus reuteri--that’s been shown to raise HDL levels. Then, of course, polyunsaturated fats, the Omega-3’s. So, Niacin, Indian Gooseberry, lactobacillus and polyunsaturated fats to raise HDL.

This is Healthy Talk on RadioMD. I’m Dr. Mike.

Stay well.