18 November 2013 Turmeric has been used as a traditional medicine in India since time immemorial. The most active compound of turmeric, curcumin, is rich antioxidants that make it a potent anti-inflammatory. Research shows that curcumin helps in lowering high cholesterol and in fighting clogged arteries that impair cardiovascular health, naturally.
Low density lipoproteins or LDL, also known as “bad” cholesterol progresses to atherosclerosis and heart disease. A study published in the journal Atherosclerosis indicated that curcumin reduces LDL and total cholesterol levels in the body and thereby acts a preventive against heart disease.
Another comprehensive study was carried out on mice in 2008. This study was conducted by French researchers and was later presented at the American Heart Association’s Basic Cardiovascular Sciences Annual Conference in 2009. Mice with a predisposition for atherosclerosis were given either a control diet or the same diet along with curcumin supplements for a period of four months. At the end of four months, the researchers found 26 percent fewer fatty artery deposits in the mice which were fed the curcumin-enhanced diet. Fewer atherosclerotic lesions were seen in these mice. The study also indicated that curcumin seemed to reverse the growth of plaques in the arteries.
Does curcumin outperform cholesterol-lowering drugs?
Researchers from Kyungpook National University in South Korea led a similar study on mice, the results of which were published in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research in 2011. In this study, a high cholesterol diet that was supplemented either with curcumin, the cholesterol-lowering drug lovastatin or a placebo was administered to the mice. After 18 weeks, the researchers found that just like lovastatin, curcumin also lowered blood levels of cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL cholesterol, while increasing levels of HDL (high-density lipoproteins) or “good” cholesterol. The study reflected changes in gene expression poised to reduce the risk of artery damage and heart disease.
The researchers were quoted as saying, “Long-term curcumin treatment lowers plasma and hepatic cholesterol and suppresses early atherosclerotic lesions comparable to the protective effects of lovastatin. The anti-atherogenic effect of curcumin is mediated via multiple mechanisms including altered lipid, cholesterol and immune gene expression.”
Curcumin for heart health
Researchers from the University of Tsukuba in Japan, while conducting three different studies during June and October 2012, found that consumption of curcumin supplements improved two measures of heart health (vascular endothelial function and arterial compliance) as much as an aerobic exercise program and a combination of the two could lead to further benefits such as slow down age-related degeneration of the heart.
The health benefits of curcumin are enhanced by consuming it at low doses over an extended period of time as against opting for high dosages for a short term.