Researchers at the University of Reading have found that an over-the-counter Artichoke Leaf Extract (ALE) from the globe artichoke plant can lower cholesterol in otherwise healthy individuals with moderately raised levels. Cardiovascular diseases are the chief causes of death in the UK, and are associated with raised circulating levels of total cholesterol in the plasma.
Once plasma cholesterol reaches a certain level, drugs such as statins are often prescribed to help reduce it. Intervention before concentrations reaches these levels may help reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases without the need for drugs. This new piece of research has shown that otherwise healthy people with moderately raised plasma cholesterol may be able to lower their levels by taking this herbal supplement.
During the trial, 75 volunteers were given 1280mg (4 capsules) of an ALE, or matched placebo, each day for 12 weeks. ALE consumption resulted in a modest but favourable statistically significant reduction in total plasma cholesterol after the intervention period.
For over 10 years, the relationship between dietary intakes of antioxidant nutrients and a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases has been recognised and investigated. Antioxidant nutrients include ‘non-essential’ phytochemicals (e.g. flavonoids) as well as ‘essential’ nutrients (e.g. vitamins C, E). Several plant-rich sources of flavonoids, such as fruits and vegetables, tea, red wine, cocoa and olive oil, have been associated with lower risk of cardiovascular diseases, although the exact mechanisms for their protective effects is still not clear. Research has shown that ALEs are rich in various flavonoids.
Globe artichokes have been used traditionally in Europe to improve digestive and urinary tract health. Artichoke leaf extracts (ALEs) are currently used in Germany and Switzerland as a remedy for indigestion, and are available in the UK as over-the-counter food supplements. Various studies have provided an evidence base for their use in conditions such as dyspepsia and irritable bowel syndrome.
Dr Rafe Bundy said “Reducing cholesterol levels can reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Our research investigated whether ALE could be beneficial to otherwise healthy people who had raised levels of cholesterol but were not yet at a stage where they needed standard medical intervention. ALE may provide another option which people could try over and above a healthy diet in order to help lower plasma cholesterol.”
- Bundy R., et al. Artichoke leaf extract (Cynara scolymus) reduces plasma cholesterol in otherwise healthy hypercholesterolemic adults: a randomised double-blind placebo controlled trial. Phytomedicine, DOI: 10.1016/j.phymed.2008.03.001
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