Curcumin Lowers Serum Cholesterol Levels

Numerous studies suggest that curcumin lowers serum cholesterol levels (78-84). Soudamini et al. investigated the effect of oral administration of curcumin on serum cholesterol levels and on lipid peroxidation in the liver, lung, kidney, and brain of mice treated with carbon tetrachloride, paraquat, and cyclophosphamide (81). Oral administration of curcumin significantly lowered the increased peroxidation of lipids in these tissues produced by these chemicals. Administration of curcumin also significantly lowered the serum and tissue cholesterol levels in these animals, indicating that the use of curcumin helps in conditions associated with peroxide-induced injury such as liver damage and arterial diseases. Soni and Kuttan examined the effect of curcumin administration in reducing the serum levels of cholesterol and lipid peroxides in 10 healthy human volunteers receiving 500 mg of curcumin per day for 7 days (82). A significant decrease in the level of serum lipid peroxides (33%), an increase in high-density-lipoproteins (HDL) cholesterol (29%), and a decrease in total serum cholesterol (12%) were noted. As curcumin reduced serum lipid peroxides and serum cholesterol, the study of curcumin as a chemopreventive substance against arterial diseases was suggested.

Curcuma xanthorrhiza Roxb., a medicinal plant used in Indonesia (known as temu lawak, or Javanese turmeric), has been shown to have diverse physiological functions. However, little attention has been paid to its effect on lipid metabolism. Yasni et al. investigated the effects of C. xanthorrhiza on serum and liver lipids, serum HDL cholesterol, apolipoprotein, and liver lipogenic enzymes in rats. In rats given a cholesterol-free diet, C. xanthorrhiza decreased the concentrations of serum triglycerides, phospholipids, and liver cholesterol and increased serum HDL cholesterol and apolipoproteins (85). The activity of liver fatty acid synthase, but not glycerophosphate dehydro-genase, was decreased by the medicinal plant. In rats on a high-cholesterol diet, C. xanthorrhiza did not suppress the elevation of serum cholesterol, although it did decrease liver cholesterol. Curcuminoids prepared from C. xanthorrhiza had no significant effects on the serum and liver lipids. These studies, therefore, indicate that C. xanthorrhiza contains an active principle other than the curcuminoids that can modify the metabolism of lipids and lipoproteins.

In later studies Yasni et al. identified the major component (approx. 65%) of the essential oil as a-curcumene. Addition of essential oils (0.02%), prepared by steam distillation, to a purified diet lowered hepatic triglyceride concentration without influencing serum triglyceride levels, whereas addition of the hexane-soluble fraction (0.5%) lowered the concentration of serum and hepatic triglycerides (86). Rats fed the essential oil and hexane-soluble fraction had lower hepatic fatty acid synthase activity. The fraction containing a-curcumene, prepared from the hexane-soluble fraction by silica gel column chromatography, suppressed the synthesis of fatty acids from [14C] acetate in primary cultured rat hepatocytes. Thus, a-curcumene is one of the active principles exerting triglyceride-lowering activity in C. xanthorrhiza.

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