Curcumin shows heart health benefits by ‘multiple mechanisms’


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Curcumin shows heart health benefits by ‘multiple mechanisms’

Related tags Atherosclerosis

Daily supplements of curcumin, the yellow pigment that gives turmeric its color, may improve heart health in lab rabbits fed a diet high in cholesterol, says a new study.

Results showed that adding curcumin to the bunnies’ diets reduced total, LDL, and oxidized LDL cholesterol by 31%, 30%, and 67%, respectively, compared to the high-cholesterol diet only.

In addition, curcumin was associated with a 41% reduction in triglyceride levels, according to data published in Nutrition Research​.

Scientists from the Korea Food Research Institute and the Korea Institute of Toxicology also report that curcumin modulated the expression of proteins linked to cell adhesion, which can increase the risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).

“Our results showed that rabbits fed a high-cholesterol diet supplemented with curcumin for eight weeks had smaller atherosclerotic lesions and less neointimal thickening in the aorta, compared to rabbits fed a high-cholesterol diet only,” ​they wrote. “This suggests that curcumin may possess anti-atherogenic properties.”


Turmeric/curcumin-containing supplements have experience significant growth in the US over the past couple of years. According to a report published in a recent issue of the American Botanical Council’s HerbalGram,​ sales of herbal dietary supplements with turmeric/curcumin as the primary ingredient grew by 26.2% in 2013 to take the top spot in the natural channel.

The rise is impressive, given it ranked third in 2011 and 2012.

The science has continued to grow, too, with new studies supporting the potential brain, cardiovascular, joint, and muscle benefits of the ingredient.

The new study adds to the potential heart health benefits of the ingredient. New Zealand white rabbits were divided into three groups: The first group was feed a normal diet, and the second and third groups were fed a high-cholesterol diet with or without 0.2% curcumin for eight weeks.

In addition to the total and LDL cholesterol reductions, the researchers noted that HDL cholesterol was unaffected by curcumin addition to the diet.

While inflammatory cytokine levels increased in the high-cholesterol diet-fed rabbits, adding curcumin attenuated any such increases. The same occurred for soluble adhesive molecule levels, said the Korean researchers.

“These results support our hypothesis and indicate that curcumin may prevent the progression of atherosclerosis by reducing lipid accumulation in the aortic endothelium,” ​they wrote. “This beneficial effect may be mediated by a reduction in serum lipid levels, oxLDL and proinflammatory cytokine production, and expression of adhesion molecules and MMPs in the aorta.

“It appears that curcumin may prevent the progression of atherosclerosis by reducing lipid accumulation on the aortic endothelium. These findings demonstrate the protective mechanisms of curcumin in an experimental model of atherosclerosis and suggest its potential role in treating atherosclerotic lesions.”

Source: Nutrition Research
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2014.09.001
“Curcumin attenuates adhesion molecules and matrix metalloproteinase expression in hypercholesterolemic rabbits”
Authors: Min Young Um, Kwang Hyun Hwang, Won Hee Choi, Jiyun Ahn, Chang Hwa Jung, Tae Youl Ha

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