If you are among the 71 million adults in America whose cholesterol levels are not what they should be, you may want to know how to lower your cholesterol without the use of drugs and their associated cost and side effects. While a balanced diet and regular exercise are tops on the list, a little help from natural supplements, such as artichoke leaf extract, can help as well.
Artichoke leaf extract offers varying benefits
Two-thirds of US adults who have high cholesterol are not being treated effectively, according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A total cholesterol level lower than 200 mg/dL is desirable, 200-239 mg/dL is borderline high, and 240 mg/dL and greater is considered high cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia). High levels of cholesterol are a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
The dried extract of the artichoke plant (Cynara scolymus) has demonstrated an ability to reduce total cholesterol levels in several studies. Artichoke leaf extract may also have an impact on high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels as well. For example:
- At the University of Reading in the UK, 75 volunteers took either a placebo or 1,280 mg of an artichoke leaf extract daily for 12 weeks. Total cholesterol declined in the artichoke group by an average of 4.2% while it increased in the placebo group of 1.9%. In this study, the researchers did not see any significant differences between the two groups for LDL and HDL cholesterol levels. According to Dr. Rafe Bundy, one of the study’s authors, artichoke leaf extract “may provide another option which people could try over and above a healthy diet in order to help lower plasma cholesterol.”
- In an analysis of three randomized controlled trials that involved a total of 262 participants who had cholesterol higher than desirable, artichoke leaf extract was compared with placebo. One of the trials reviewed was the University of Reading study; in another trial, artichoke leaf extract reduced total cholesterol by 18.5% after 42 days of treatment compared with an 8.6% reduction in the placebo group. The third study reported that the extract lowered cholesterol in a sub-group of patients whose total cholesterol levels were greater than 230 mg/dL.
- A group of 22 members of the Polish rowing team were assigned to take either 400 mg of artichoke leaf extract three times a day for five weeks, or to take a placebo. Although the researchers were mainly looking for the impact of the antioxidants in artichoke leaf on exercise, they also noted total cholesterol levels at the end of the study were significantly lower in the men who took artichoke leaf than in those who took placebo.
Artichoke leaves contain a high level of phytonutrients, including flavonoids, caffeeolyquinic acid, and bitter substances. The benefits of artichoke leaves are believed to be associated with an ability to increase the breakdown of cholesterol to bile salts, which in turn increases bile production and helps carry toxins out of the liver for elimination.
Artichoke leaf extract may help you lower your cholesterol levels along with diet and exercise. A possible side effect includes mild gas. Although no standard dose has been established, 1,800 mg daily (taken in divided doses) is typical for high cholesterol. Artichoke leaf extract should not be taken by anyone who had gallstones or bile duct obstruction and, as always, consult a healthcare professional before taking any supplement.
Bundy R et al. Artichoke leaf extract (Cynara scolymus) reduces plasma cholesterol in otherwise healthy hypercholesterolemic adults. Phytomedicine 2008 Sep; 15(9): 668-75
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Skarpanska-Stejnborn A et al. The influence of supplementation with artichoke (Cynara scolymus L) extract on selected redox parameters in rowers. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism 2008 Jun; 18(3): 313-27
Wider B et al. Artichoke leaf extract for treating hypercholesterolaemia. Cochrane Database Systemic Reviews 2009 Oct 7;(4): CD003335
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