Curcumin is the principal curcuminoid of the popular Indian spice turmeric.
Some of the most intriguing new research on Curcumin’s potential benefits involves its apparent ability to improve cardiovascular health. As with many of Curcumin’s protective actions, this ability to improve circulatory system function may be due to its powerful antioxidant activity. Late last year, several reports detailed Curcumin’s ability to protect test animals against a variety of conditions that model heart disease in humans.
Researchers in Egypt noted that Curcumin protected rats from oxidative stress injury following experimentally induced stroke. Stroke is a common result of thrombosis and/or atherosclerosis, which leads to clogging of the arteries that supply the brain with vital oxygen and nutrients. It is believed that such injury, known as ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) insult, is responsible for many of the deficits seen in stroke victims. Researchers concluded that Curcumin protected the rats from I/R damage. They noted that when Curcumin was administered at the highest levels, injury-related oxidants, believed to be responsible for the majority of I/R damage, were significantly reduced.
Among the Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) whose levels or activities were reduced by Curcumin were xanthine oxidase, superoxide anion, malondialdehyde, glutathione peroxidase, superoxide dismutase, and lactate dehydrogenase. As most readers of Life Extension already know, scientists attribute many of the undesirable effects of aging to the rogue activities of damaging free radicals, and antioxidants are crucial for their control. As noted previously, Curcumin is a powerful antioxidant and many of its beneficial effects may be directly related to its ability to scavenge and neutralize these ROS.
Effects on Cholesterol:In laboratory tests on animals and in vitro, scientists have shown that Curcumin prevents lipid peroxidation and the oxidation of cellular and sub cellular membranes that are associated with atherosclerosis. Moreover, Curcumin acts to lower total cholesterol levels. Perhaps even more important, it prevents peroxidation of LDL (”bad”) cholesterol. LDL peroxidation plays a key role in the development of atherosclerosis, so it follows that a substance that inhibits peroxidation should benefit cardiovascular health.
Atherosclerosis is a common disorder associated with aging, diabetes, obesity, and a diet high in saturated fat. It begins gradually, as cholesterol and other lipids deposit on arterial walls and form damaging plaques. Oxidized lipids are suspected of playing a particularly damaging role in the progression of atherosclerosis. As plaques grow, vessel walls may eventually thicken and stiffen, restricting blood flow to target organs and tissues. Atherosclerosis is a major cause of heart disease and may also lead to stroke. When atherosclerotic plaques restrict blood flow to the heart, depriving cardiac muscle of vital oxygen and nutrients, coronary tissue dies. Angina and heart attack are the result. Since Curcumin is a naturally occurring, well-tolerated antioxidant that is capable of destroying the dangerous free radicals that lead to lipid peroxidation, it would appear that it holds enormous potential in the fight against heart disease.
Ultimately, the United States is home to some of the highest cholesterol rates. However, while much can be attributed to poor dietary decisions and a sedentary lifestyle, cholesterol levels can vary based upon gender, race and ethnicity. The outlook is getting better though; since 2000, there has been a 2% decrease in the number of adults in the U.S. with high LDL levels. Not to mention that healthcare has taken a leap forward with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Unless one of the Obamacare exemptions applies to you, everyone is required to have healthcare in the United States. While that may seem forceful, the health insurance rates have been made significantly more affordable for lower-income individuals and families.
Still more intriguing than its ability to limit peroxidation is the finding that Curcumin raises HDL (’good’) cholesterol levels, even as it reduces LDL levels. In a small study of human volunteers, researchers reported a highly significant 29% increase in HDL among subjects who consumed one-half gram (500mg) of Curcumin per day for seven days. Subjects also experienced a decrease in total serum cholesterol of more than 11%, and a decrease in serum lipid peroxides of 33%. Further human studies are needed, but these preliminary findings are promising. As one research team noted: “Administration of a nutritional dose of C. longa extracts [Curcumin]…may contribute to the prevention of effects caused by a diet high in fat and cholesterol in blood and liver during the development of atherosclerosis.
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