When it comes to health matters, one common thing that bothers many people around the world is having high cholesterol levels in their bodies. High cholesterol or hypercholesterolemia is a disorder that occurs when cholesterol deposits in the blood vessels of your body and obstructs blood flow through the arteries and veins. This results in high blood pressure and cardiac problems such as heart attack, conditions that are very risky to your health. Did you know the benefits of turmeric may help reduce your risk of these cardiovascular issues?
In most cases, hypercholesterolemia in today's world is caused by obesity, consumption of high fat foods, diabetes, and having a history of family members with high cholesterol. It has been known to affect a large number of people around the world and is also among one of the leading causes of health-related deaths in general. However, cholesterol levels in the body can easily be managed by managing your body weight and diet.
Undertaking regular exercise such as jogging, going to the gym and engaging in sporting activities are among the few great ways of managing your weight. Consuming less fatty foods and feeding more on fruits and vegetables helps in reducing the cases of being affected by hypercholesterolemia. However, in many patient cases, medications known as anti-hypertensive and cholesterol drugs are also required especially in the case of chronic hypercholesterolemia.
The problem with medications is that there are various problems associated with them and now people are opting to switch to newer and less toxic therapies to help control cholesterol levels in their bodies. One of these important herbal remedy options which is emerging as an all important therapy for cholesterol management, prevention and reduction both in mild and chronic cases is Turmeric.
Turmeric is the Indian spice that helps give curry its golden color. While it may not be the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of cholesterol health, present research studies suggest that it should be. Turmeric, together with the trio of yellow pigments that it contains known as curcuminoids, have been known to lower LDL cholesterol and prevent its oxidation thus helping suppress plaque build-up in body arteries.
But according to recent studies, that is far from all that it does. Research has shown that turmeric has a wide range of therapeutic effects on LDL cholesterol, also known as "bad" cholesterol, cardiovascular heath and much more. However, turmeric seems to more specifically have the ability to prevent cholesterol production in the liver, stop and block its absorption in the gut, and most importantly reduce the LDL cholesterol oxidation in the lining of arteries.
Turmeric, also known as Curcuma longa, is a perennial plant that is native to South Asia and is known for its rhizome which has a long history in food production and traditional medicine. It belongs to the ginger family and although its fresh rhizome is the most common form in which it is used as food and medicine, its powder is also used as a food coloring additive because of its deep orange-yellow color. It is also commonly used as a dye.
However, the most popular bio-active compound in turmeric is curcumin; the compound responsible for its bright color. As a food additive, it is referred to as E100. The curcumin compound is also responsible for most of the medicinal properties of turmeric.
The major constituents of turmeric include;
Turmeric has for years been used in both Ayurveda and Chinese traditional systems of medicine. It is a herbal remedy in the treatment of jaundice, chest pains, colic, hemorrhage, toothache and blood urine.
It's by no coincidence that a traditional Hindu word for turmeric, haldi, actually means 'healthy'. Recent continually accumulating researches have medical scientists convinced that turmeric actually is a wonder/miracle spice like no other. Hundreds of studies have proven its ability to prevent and cure over 600 different ailments and diseases. Turmeric affects the body in over 175 unique ways by acting as an antioxidant, an anti-inflammatory, a neuro-protectant, an endocrine modulator, a natural antibiotic and an anti-cancer agent among more.
As mentioned earlier, the wide range of healing abilities of turmeric have for long been used by practitioners of medicine like Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine. And now modern medicine has finally caught up with the healing abilities of turmeric by proving these ancient claims correct.
According to a study published in the Journal Atherosclerosis on 2004, it was noted that turmeric extract can be used to help reduce the susceptibility of LDL cholesterol to oxidation, an all important step in the development of heart disease and atherosclerosis. In an experiment, controlled dosages of turmeric were fed to hypercholesterolemia rabbits and the effects on LDL oxidation analyzed. The experiment found that turmeric efficiently extracts and reduces the levels of cholesterol in the blood along with the prevalence of atherosclerosis with time.
It was hence proven that turmeric reduces the oxidation and circulation of oxidized levels of LDL cholesterol, hence resulting in the reduction of occurrence or treatment of already existing atherosclerosis in affected individuals.
Another more comprehensive study was conducted by some French researches in 2008 and published in the journal of Molecular Nutrition & Food Research in 2012. In this study, mice were pre-disposed to develop atherosclerosis and were then either fed on a controlled diet or the same diet but with an addition of curcumin supplements for 4 months. At the end of the research, it was found that there were 26% fewer fatty artery deposits in the mice that fed on the curcumin-enhanced diet. Also, fewer atherosclerotic lesions were found in the mice and the researchers additionally found out that curcumin seemed to actually change the gene expression related to plaque build-up in arteries.
Research published in the Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology
In this research, 10 healthy volunteers were given 500 grams of curcumin per day for 7 days and the effect on their body cholesterol levels observed. At the end of the 7 days, not only had the blood levels of the oxidized LDL cholesterol dropped by 33%, but also their total cholesterol levels had dropped by about 12%. Consequently, their HDL (which is known as the "good cholesterol") had increased by 29% by the end of this period.
Research shows Turmeric performs better than cholesterol lowering drugs
Another study on mice that were pre-disposed to heart disease was conducted by researchers from Kyungpook National University in South Korea and published in the journal of Molecular Nutrition & Food Research in the year 2011. In this study, the mice were fed with a high cholesterol diet supplemented with either curcumin, the cholesterol-lowering drug lovastatin, or a placebo. After 18 weeks, the researchers found that curcumin lowered blood levels of cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides while at the same time increasing the levels of HDL cholesterol. It performed just like lovastatin.
The researchers concluded that long-term curcumin treatment lowers plasma and hepatic cholesterol while at the same time suppressing early atherosclerotic lesions, effects comparable to the protective effects of lovastatin.
In 2005, a study published in the Medical Science Monitor titled the International Medical Journal of Experimental and Clinical Research investigated the antioxidant and hypolipidemic benefits of curcumin in rats. The researchers induced hypercholesterolemia in the rats by feeding them with a high-cholesterol rich diet for 7 days. They then later added 0.5% curcumin to the animals' diet. The study results showed; reduced serum total cholesterol by 21%, reduced serum LDL cholesterol by 42.5%, and increased serum HDL cholesterol by 50%.
The researchers concluded that curcumin in turmeric is the phytochemical responsible for the reduction of cholesterol levels. Additionally, they noted that curcumin reduced the levels of lip by interfering with the metabolism, absorption and excretion of cholesterol rather than by antioxidant mechanisms. An earlier study published in the Journal of Nutrition in 1970 had reached similar conclusions. The researchers determined that the cholesterol-lowering effect by curcumin was as a result of increased fecal excretion of bile acids and cholesterol.
A study published in 2006 on the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry sought to study the effects of curcumin on human liver cell line. The researchers showed that the effect of curcumin on cholesterol metabolism extends deep to the genetic levels. By treating human liver cells with curcumin, the researchers were able to show that turmeric phytochemical raised the LD-receptor mRNA seven times. This shows that curcumin raises the up-take of cholesterol by the liver and thus helps with its removal from the plasma. Therefore, by increasing the population of LDL receptors in the liver, curcumin hastens the break-down of LDL cholesterol.
Asides from this, the study also showed that the curcumin raises the population of other receptors such as retinoic acid receptor and the liver X receptor, involved in the breakdown of lipids.
Curcumin, which provides turmeric its distinctive yellow color, is the primary active ingredient in the spice. The majority of turmeric's potential health advantages can be attributed to curcumin.
Regrettably, turmeric and curcumin don't readily enter the human system, so eating curry with it only once a month is difficult to provide you with the required antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
Although turmeric is gaining popularity at a fast rate, it is still quite a misunderstood root spice. In fact, many people use the term ‘turmeric’ interchangeably with curcumin and curcuminoids.
However, the three terms are quite different in meaning and should certainly not be used interchangeably. You must learn the differences as they have implications in many areas, such as clinical dosing and nutritional supplements.