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Can Turmeric Lower Your Cholesterol Levels?

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Updated May 15, 2014

If you’ve ever eaten Eastern Asian or Middle Eastern cuisine, there’s a good chance that you have probably encountered turmeric. Turmeric is a yellow colored powder that is often used as a food-coloring agent and as a spice in a variety of foods. It belongs to the ginger family and has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine to treat inflammation, infections, and various gastrointestinal ailments. The medicinal properties of its active ingredient, curcumin, have been known for a long time. Although turmeric is currently most notable for its antioxidant, anticancer and anti-inflammatory properties, there has been recent talk about its ability to lower cholesterol.

Does Turmeric Lower Cholesterol?

The research on turmeric so far appears to be very favorable. It appears that turmeric mainly affects LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol) and triglyceride levels. One study conducted on rabbits fed a high-fat diet showed that turmeric appeared to lower LDL cholesterol levels and triglycerides, as well as preventing LDL from being oxidized. Oxidized LDL has been shown to greatly accelerate the formation of atherosclerosis. The cholesterol lowering effects of turmeric have remained consistent in these studies. In fact, one study even concluded that LDL cholesterol was lowered anywhere between one-half and one-third of those subjects consuming turmeric in comparison to those not receiving it.

Although this information appears promising, there is one hitch: there are hardly any studies that have looked at the ability or turmeric to lower cholesterol levels in humans. Since it does work in other animals, it may also work in humans. However, the dosage and function of turmeric in humans in lowering cholesterol is still under investigation. So, more studies are needed in order to verify that turmeric lowers cholesterol in humans.

If you are interested in using turmeric in your cooking, there are many recipes available at your disposal regarding this fascinating spice. Using small amounts of turmeric in cooking is relatively safe and may provide some healthy benefits. However, if are thinking about using high levels of tumeric to lower your cholesterol levels, be sure that you consult your health care provider first, since high amounts of this spice may interact with some of the medications you might be taking, particularly aspirin, warfarin, numerous blood-sugar lowering agents and numerous antacids.

Sources:

Pizzorno JE, Murray MT. Textbook of Natural Medicine. New York, NY: Churchill Livingstone; 1999:689-692.

M.C. Ramýrez-Tortosa et al. Oral administration of a turmeric extract inhibits LDL oxidation and has hypocholesterolemic effects in rabbits with experimental atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis 147 (1999) 371-378.

Subba Rao, D., Chandrasekhara, N., Satyanarayanam, M. N. and Srinivasan, M., Effect of curcumin on serum and liver cholesterol levels in the rat. J. Nutr, 1970, 100:1307-1316.

Turmeric. Drug Digest. http://www.drugdigest.org/DD/DVH/HerbsWho/0,3923,4046|Turmeric,00.html

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