Curcumin, the bright orange-yellow pigment found in the curry spice turmeric, might prove to be an inexpensive and side effects-free way to lower cholesterol. (There is also a corresponding health benefit of turmeric supplements, but curcumin is much easier to take on a regular basis because the dosage of turmeric would need to be more than an ounce a day.)
A study designed to determine whether curcumin could be safely administered to people who are sick, two Indian researchers gave 500 mg of curcumin a day to 10 healthy volunteers every day for seven days. The test subject volunteers did not get sick, but they also showed an astonishing lowering of cholesterol.
In just seven days, there was a 29 per cent increase in the "good" HDL cholesterol, a 12 per cent decrease in total cholesterol (which means there was roughly a 34 per cent decrease in LDL cholesterol, which is not measured directly), and a 33 per cent decrease in lipid peroxides.
What are lipid peroxides?
These are compounds in your blood that are actually more worrisome than LDL. A lipid peroxide can get "stuck" in the lining of a blood vessel, and the a kind of white blood cell called a macrophage can come along to dislodge but get stuck, too. Lipid peroxides from the core around with a plaque calcifies.
So can curcumin lower cholesterol if you aren't healthy?
A follow-up study suggests that it can. Just 10 mg of a curcumin heart health supplement twice a day for 28 days lowered LDL and raised HDL in patients who already had atherosclerosis. men and women who suffer cardiomyopathy and high cholesterol or congestive heart failure and high cholesterol may benefit from the addition of curcumin to their health care routines.
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Soni KB, Kuttan R. Effect of oral curcumin administration on serum peroxides and cholesterol levels in human volunteers. 1: Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 1992 Oct;36(4):273-5.