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Health News Archive 422 - Cholesterol Levels
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Curcumin Helps Lower Cholesterol Levels

Curcumin is the major component of the spices turmeric and curry. Curcumin has exhibited a number health functions, including the mitigation of polyps as well as maintenance of brain health and antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. It is these properties of curcumin that have made it useful in helping protect against oxidative damage, such as that caused by smoking and alcohol consumption.

One health-promoting property of curcumin gaining attention is its ability to help lower cholesterol within the normal range. Unfortunately, the mechanisms behind curcumin’s health benefits, including that of lowering cholesterol, are still unclear. This study may have found a possible mechanism on just how curcumin lowers cholesterol within the normal range.

In the study published online in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, researchers used liver cells called HepG2 cells and incubated them with curcumin in amounts that ranged from 0.74 mg (2 micromoles) to 18.5 mg (50 micromoles) of curcumin. They measured the activity of genes involved in cholesterol that include LDL-receptor mRNA, which affects uptake of LDL-cholesterol (thereby lowering its level in the blood), liver X receptor (LXR) which binds various forms of oxidized cholesterol, and retinoic acid receptor (RXR) which activates several genes reportedly involved in cholesterol breakdown.

The researchers found that treatment with 4 mg of curcumin (10 micromoles) caused an up to sevenfold increase in LDL-receptor mRNA while also causing a significant activation of both LXR and RXR genes, all of which cause a decrease in cholesterol synthesis.

The researchers concluded, “curcumin caused changes in gene expression in HepG2 cells that are consistent with the [cholesterol-lowering] effects of dietary curcumin.”

Source: Peschel D. Curcumin induces changes in expression of genes involved in cholesterol homeostasis. Jou Nutr Biochem. In Press, Corrected Proof, Available online 18 May 2006.

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