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Can Artichoke Leaf Extract Lower Cholesterol?

Artichoke Leaf Extract Appears Promising, But More Studies Are Needed

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Updated June 19, 2014

Can Artichoke Leaf Extract Lower Cholesterol?

Recent studies are showing that artichoke leaf extract can lower cholesterol levels.

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Artichoke leaf extract is derived from artichokes (Cynara scolymus). This plant belongs to the daisy family and is native to areas such as southern Europe and northern Africa. It is a delicious accompaniment to many dishes, and its leaves have been traditionally used to treat ailments like jaundice, acid reflux and various liver disorders. Research studies are showing that artichoke may have a new niche: lowering cholesterol.

How Does Artichoke Lower Cholesterol?

The manner by which artichokes lower cholesterol is not fully known. It is thought that artichokes may indirectly interact with the same protein that statins interact with to lower cholesterol. Called HMGCoA reductase, this enzyme plays an important role in the making of cholesterol.

Artichokes also contain antioxidants, such as flavonoids. These chemicals are also in a variety of other, colorful vegetables and fruits and are thought to play a role in lowering the oxidation of LDL, which contributes to atherosclerosis.

How Well Can Artichokes Lower Cholesterol?

Unfortunately, the studies are mixed regarding the use of artichokes in lowering cholesterol. Most only involve examining the effects of artichoke leaf extract, which is also widely available as a supplement. One study found that total cholesterol levels were lowered by 18.5% compared to 8.6% in those individuals taking a placebo. Additionally, LDL cholesterol was lowered by 22.9%, compared with 6% of those taking a placebo. To see this difference, the participants in this study had to take at least 1800 mg for roughly 6 weeks.

While few studies have found that total cholesterol levels were lowered by between 5% to 45% in those taking artichoke leaf extract, many other studies have found no significant difference. Additionally, the majority of these studies found that triglycerides and HDL do not appear to be greatly affected by artichoke leaf extract. The average amount of artichoke leaf extract taken in these studies ranged between 1800 to 1900 mg daily for at least 6 weeks. During the studies, the only significant side effects noted were hunger, flatulence, and weakness.

While artichokes are a healthy alternative to consuming other high-fat foods, they should not be solely relied upon to lower your cholesterol. A healthy diet and exercise should also be implemented into your cholesterol-lowering plan.

Sources:

Coon JS, Ernst E. Herbs for cholesterol reduction: a systematic review. J Fam Pract 2003;52:468-478.

Bundy R, Walker AF, Middleton RW. Artichoke leaf extract reduces plasma cholesterol in otherwise healthy hypercholeterolemic adults: a randomized double blind placebo controlled trial. Phytomedicine 2008 Sep;15(9):668-75

Pittler MH, Thompson CJ, Ernst E. Arltichoke leaf extract for treating hypercholesterolemia. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2008;3:CD003335.

_Englisch W, Beckers C, Unkauf M, Ruepp M, Zinserling V. Effi- cacy of artichoke dry extract in patients with hyperlipoproteinemia. Arzneim.-Forsch. / Drug Res 2000;50:260–265.

Artner-Dworzak E, Mayr O, Mueller B, Maly K, Grunicke H. In- fluence of the artichoke extract on lipid metabolism. Phytomedicine 2000;Supplement II:46 SL-91.

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