At present, dyslipidemia is most commonly treated with drug therapy. However, because safety concerns regarding the use of pharmaceutical agents have arisen, a need for alternative nonpharmacological therapies has become increasingly apparent.

The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Adult Treatment Panel III (ATP III) recommends lifestyle therapies, which include a combination of diet and exercise modifications, in place of drug treatment for patients who fall into an intermediate range of coronary heart disease (CHD) risk.

This review examined the cholesterol lowering efficacy of the following 2 NCEP-recommended combination therapies: 1) low saturated fat diets combined with exercise, and 2) nutritional supplementation, i.e., fish oil, oat bran, or plant sterol supplementation, combined with exercise, in the treatment of dyslipidemia.

Combination therapies are particularly advantageous because diet and exercise elicit complementary effects on lipid profiles. More specifically, diet therapies, with some exceptions, lower total (TC) and LDL cholesterol (LDL-C) concentrations, whereas exercise interventions increase HDL cholesterol (HDL-C) while decreasing triglyceride (TG) levels.

With respect to specific interventions, low saturated fat diets combined with exercise lowered TC, LDL-C, and TG concentrations by 7-18, 7-15, and 4-18%, respectively, while increasing HDL-C levels by 5-14%.

Alternatively, nutritional supplements combined with exercise, decreased TC, LDL-C, and TG concentrations by 8-26, 8-30, and 12-39%, respectively, while increasing HDL-C levels by 2-8%.

These findings suggest that combination lifestyle therapies are an efficacious, preliminary means of improving cholesterol levels in those diagnosed with dyslipidemia, and should be implemented in place of drug therapy when cholesterol levels fall just above the normal range.